Following agency demands, MHA extends deadline for public tender

On 13 January 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) launched a public tender on Gebiz looking for an agency to provide consultancy services for a corporate communications strategy and branding.

The brief seen by Marketing, said that a briefing was set to take place two weeks later on 26 January 2016, one day before Chinese New Year eve. Meanwhile, the deadline for the proposal submission is on 9 February approximately 10 days (including weekends) after the Chinese new year public holidays.

This caused several agencies to highlight their concerns to MHA regarding the timeline. Many proceeded to request for more time from the home affairs government body. After consideration, the tender deadline was extended by one week to 16 February 2016, a change that was announced this morning.

Under anonymity, one agency lead said there wasn’t enough time for the agency to start working on the account post the briefing – given that many members of the staff had also taken time off for the Lunar New Year. Another account manager at the briefing said given the long list of deliverables demanded by the client, not enough time was given.

In a statement to Marketing, a MHA spokesperson confirmed the developments. It said that the MHA intends to engage a company to provide consultancy on how to better portray the work of the Home Team.

“During the tender briefing on 26 January 2017, a few agencies were concerned regarding the timeline and had requested more time. Our primary objective is to allow tenderers adequate time so that all who are interested will be able to submit their bids. Hence, we have extended the tender until 16 February 2017. We look forward to receiving the proposals on how to showcase the Home Team officers’ work in keeping Singapore safe and secure,” the spokesperson added.

However this raises an issue the industry is very much aware of – working through holiday seasons.

Year after year, we have seen several big pitches by notable clients being called during the year end holidays. Last year the STB media pitch ran through the holidays with the announcements on winners only being made on 6 January this year. The year before, Changi ran a pitch during the same festive season. The examples are countless.

And despite the gripes of the agencies, the reality is, many agency folk, junior and senior, still continue to come back during the holiday season to pitch for these coveted clients.

In a conversation with Marketing, Paul Davies, managing partner at Roth Observatory said unfortunately, this is the reality of a service industry.

He added another reality is that there continue to be pitches which do not give agencies enough time to respond. This is detrimental to both the agency and the client as the marketer will not be able to get the best solution for their business.

“In my experience marketers who understand the detrimental effect will try very hard to avoid these situations but on occasions internal or competitive pressures mean it is forced on them. Clearly it is not respectful of the agencies and their staff,” Davies added.

Agreeing with Davies is Bernard Chan, CEO of 4As, who explained that good strategy and good ideas take time. Hence if clients are not able to give a sufficient amount of time for agencies to make that happen, they would be the ones who will feel the consequences. Some of these consequences include getting a campaign outcome that may not be at its most optimal, which can result in a loss of investment and a waste of the service being rendered.

“The smart marketers who understand the implications of these situations will avoid them or look for alternative solutions – such as an extension to the existing agency to give you time to run an effective pitch. The marketers that don’t will suffer the consequences maybe not immediately but eventually,” Davies said.

Is change possible?

According to Davies, this is not an issue which is exclusive to the advertising and marketing world as it is a common issue with other service industries.

“One of the problems we have, though is a disparate, and hence weak, industry bodies representing the needs of both agencies and marketers. Hence it is very difficult to undertake any change with this situation,” Davies said.

In response to this, Chan said that the 4As is currently considering expanding their involvement in the pitching environment.  One possibility will be to increase the level of education. Another may take form of developing pitch process guidelines.

However agencies need to take responsibility for their actions as well.

When it comes to these situations, Chan said that the choice is not with the client, but rather with the agency to walk away if the timing doesn’t feel right.

It is important for agencies to walk in with their eyes wide open and know when to walk away.

He also added that there is quite a lot of education still needed in the industry when it comes to pitching etiquette.

“The reality is some pitches will still occur during the holidays, and agencies which are hungry enough will go for it as it is a business of survival of the fittest. Moving forward, I hope agencies will be able to identify when to walk away and not perpetuate a vicious cycle,” Chan said.

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