Magazine article ADWEEK

VF Review Poses Question: What Is a Reasonable RFP? at Least 3 Agencies Bail out; Some Call Request 'Over the Top,' 'Insane'

Magazine article ADWEEK

VF Review Poses Question: What Is a Reasonable RFP? at Least 3 Agencies Bail out; Some Call Request 'Over the Top,' 'Insane'

Article excerpt

NEW YORK Is it the RFP from hell, as some media agencies view it, or a thorough document designed to insure a rigorous and informed agency search, as the client and consultant contend?

That's the debate over the RFP issued by Greensboro, N.C.-based VF Corporation's procurement office last month as part of a media agency review designed to consolidate the company's estimated $110 million media buying account, which is currently dispersed among several shops, into one.

But the demands for information in the RFP were considered so "over the top," as one agency executive put it, that at least three of the seven known agencies contacted declined to participate. Officially, the agencies, Havas' MPG, Publicis Groupe's Optimedia and independent Horizon Media, withdrew due to their current workload.

But sources said the shops bailed mainly because VF required confidential information, such as detailed pricing information negotiated for other clients for media time and space in specific publications and TV shows, as well as very specific planning and buying data from proprietary processes developed in-house. "We're just not going to give that stuff away," said one executive at an agency that is taking a pass.

What's more, even some of the agencies that remain involved have found the RFP problematic. Sources also say that remaining contenders aren't providing all the information requested due to its proprietary nature.

The company, which makes Lee and Wrangler Jeans, among other brands, also demanded "reams" of general information that agency sources said was too time-consuming to gather and had little relevance to the VF Corp. media account. One example: The company asked agencies to write about the up-front process and how they might improve on it. "It was like, tell us everything you know about everything in media in great depth and on a short, tight time table," said one executive.

Another source, at an agency that isn't participating, had one word to describe the RFP: "Insane." Another described it as "punishing."

Lastly, in addition to all the information demands, sources said a time-consuming travel itinerary was imposed as part of the process, whereby each contender's entire team was expected to spend the equivalent of between one and two weeks on the road to meet and present to key people on the VF brands--all four dozen of them. (Nautica and The North Face are also among the brands.)

"Sometimes the consultants in a review can drive you crazy," said one executive involved, noting that a consultant was not leading the search. "But [VF] really needs a consultant to teach them how to write an RFP."

Actually, there is a consultant involved--Joanne Davis, although her role in the process is limited to that of an "of-counsel" advisor to VF's Kim McMillon, a senior-level procurement officer who is leading the media agency search. Davis didn't pen the RFP, and it was issued before she entered the process. But she's seen it and takes issue with the agency complaints.

"I think it's OK. …

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