Monday, 5 November, 2007

Bake me a plan

Pat a cake, Pat a cake, baker's man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it and prick it and mark it with a 'B',
And put it in the oven for Baby and me.

Prospective clients have the same attitude towards agencies wanting their business. Give us a plan, and if it’s any good (read: If you are cheapest) we’ll take it forward.

You won’t expect a lawyer, doctor or architect to work under those terms, would you? Or a dress designer? You hire on the basis of recommendations and reputation, fix a price, then start the work.

But agencies are supposed to do elaborate speculative plans, including detailed costing, creative elements, response rates, and RoI.

Anyone with commonsense will understand the whole thing is absurd. How can another company, no matter how intelligent and experienced its people are, solve your business problem on the basis of an interview and a few downloads from your website?

What we probably don’t realise is that this method is counterproductive. Because an agency doing a speculative plan will be stupid to work hard. Besides, even if it did, it just doesn’t know enough about the intricacies involved to come up with something truly worthwhile. If it does, it probably owes more to luck than skill or brains.

Wouldn’t it be better to buy the agency’s commitment by appointing first, giving a few simple jobs to familiarise their people with your company, then scaling up to plans and programmes?

PS: Admittedly, in certain engineering work detailed plans are asked for in the contract bid. However, three things need to be kept in mind: (a) These are for very large contracts, where the rewards are very large too, and make the risks worthwhile (b) The requirements are given in some detail (c) Engineering projects are notorious for budget and time overruns.

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