Most companies today use some version of the “Request for Proposal or “RFP” when requesting bids for media production from a creative agency or production company. These forms typically provide a scope of work that is anticipated for the project.  Others include a creative brief that explains the creative goals and objectives for the project.

The level of detail provided in these documents can significantly affect the accuracy of the bids that you receive. Often, bids delivered in response to an RFP can vary by as much as 20%, 30%, 50% or more.

How is this possible? Every vendor gets the same RFP yet the bids are as different as night and day…

Well, it’s kind of like a game of telephone. Everyone reads the same words, but the bids they come up with can be very, very different. The same words can conjure up vastly different perceptions in the minds of different people and different organizations. The same RFP can suggest different levels of production, different creative interpretations, different equipment and/or location needs and different levels of effort required to create the program you have described.

Great you say, but how do you go about evaluating the bids that you receive in response to your RFP – especially if the proposals are so different? The answer may lie in refining the RFP process you use.

The more detail provided in the RFP the better. Typically, more detailed RFP’s and more fully realized creative briefs result in more consistently priced bids.

But there is another strategy that can work just as well if not better… Include a price range in your RFP. Let the agencies know the scope of the investment you are hoping to make in the media project you are proposing.  Nothing levels the playing field more than knowing the level of investment you are prepared to make. The bids you receive will still be competitive and should all fall at or below price range you specified. Then, you can evaluate what each company is willing to deliver for roughly the same media production dollar:

  • How many days of shooting on location does each company provide?
  • Does the bid include the services of a Creative Director?
  • How many hours of editing?
  • What equipment are they specifying?
  • How many people on the crew?
  • How many hours of programming are included?
  • How many rounds of comps/storyboards will you receive?
  • How many script drafts?

Including a price range in your RFP allows the bids you receive to be compared in an “apples to apples” environment. You can effectively gauge which vendor is providing the most production “bang for the buck”. This can make the challenging task of choosing the right vendor a little bit easier.

You might also find that this strategy also results in some unexpected benefits. Including the price range will enable some vendors provide you with alternative creative or technical approaches for your project that you might not have otherwise considered. These may result in a more cost effective program that actually saves you money in the long run.

At the end of the day, cost is an important factor in choosing the right creative agency or media production company for your project. However, it should not be the only factor you consider. Creativity, innovation, strategy, customer service and personality are all important considerations as well. In my next blog, I‘ll review some things that you might want to think about when you are evaluating companies for your next project.

Mike Schrader