Why are Ad agencies boycotting this zoo?
No. it’s not because of ‘Gorilla marketing’
What’s going on here
The ICA cited “unfair practices and pitch requirements” and more specifically, stating that “too many agencies have been asked to participate [and] ideally there should have been a fair and reasonable elimination process, with a shortlist before going to market”, as the reason for calling the boycott. In addition to this, the pitch process and contract were both deemed to be unreasonable.
“[The] ICA’s member agencies and subsidiaries account for over 75 percent of all national advertising in Canada, with an economic impact worth more than $19 billion annually”, according to the ICA’s website.
What does this mean
What the zoo is doing here is known as the ‘Cattle call’ approach, which is when a firm invites as many agencies as possible to pitch them. This practice is generally frowned upon by ad agencies.
The ICA recommends clients to have a shortlist of agencies be no more than 10 during the information stage (where clients approach agencies and outline in very broad terms the nature of the brief and timing of the search), with Request for proposals or RFP’s given only to those few select agencies that have been vetted to ensure that they are the right fit. This and other guidelines set by the ICA save both clients and agencies time and money.
The Association of Canadian advertisers or the ACA has its own set of guidelines when it comes to the agency search and pitch process that is similar to the ICA’s albeit with a few major disagreements.
To fight back against companies making unreasonable and exhausting requirements in the pitch process, the ICA recently launched a new initiative called ‘Pitch Watchdog’ earlier this month which will allow ICA member agencies to flag client pitch requirements they deem unfair.
Why should I care?
For your career
Watch out for em bad apples!
Just because this story highlights how agency clients can be bad actors doesn’t mean that marketing agencies themselves are not exempt for unfair or unethical practices.
Before joining an agency as an intern, it’s important that you watch out for several red flags that indicate the poor working environment:
- An agency with no or little examples of work or case studies on their website.
- An agency that has a job description for a ‘Marketing Internship’ But sounds a lot more like sales/cold calling
- An agency that requires you to complete an exhaustive project before you are considered for the role (For example, they ask you to create a 10-page marketing assessment for one of their clients).
For the Industry
Agencies turn down opportunities to pitch more often than you’d think.
No, it’s not because they don’t like money. The best agencies are very strategic with their choice of clients, because they know working with the right client(s) is better in the long run than working with the client that is offering the most money or has the biggest reputation.
Bad clients can be a massive headache. Watch out for this especially if you looking to go into account management roles. So what makes a good client? You ask. This quora discussion gives some great examples.
It is important to note situations like these (a boycott) are an anomaly. Scott Knox, president of the ICA justified the decision to take the issue to the media by saying, “[I] was bounced between the zoo’s marketing and procurement departments to the point that the call for a boycott was necessary”.
In a statement to Strategyonline, he continued, “Bad pitches often aren’t malicious but are a product of legacy thinking and procurement departments who aren’t grasping why their requirements are problematic”.
For you, personally
How much do you know about the Agencies?
If you’re like me and haven’t had the opportunity to intern at an agency, you probably won’t know much about how agencies work. I know I didn’t!
It only dawned on me just how little I knew about how they work when I started writing. This isn’t good given the fact that I see myself working at an agency in the near future. If you’re like me, it’s time to start reading up on agencies and how they work!