Case Study: Requesting creative as part of the tendering/quoting process

Have you ever wondered whether it’s appropriate to request creative as part of the Request for Tender/Quotation (RFT/Q) process? We explored this issue by asking agencies and design associations about their experiences and expectations.

Consulting with stakeholders

According to DPAC’s Properties and Procurement area, there is no government policy that gives definitive direction on this issue in the context of marketing/communications procurement. They did suggest that if creative is requested as part of the RFT/Q process, it should be clearly stated in the request and providers must be given sufficient time and proper briefings to enable them to ‘hit the mark’.

Similarly, Treasury confirmed that there is no firm rule prohibiting agencies from seeking creative as part of the tender process. However, they acknowledged that since the creative is the service being procured, it does not necessarily seem reasonable to request it as part of the quotation process.

When advice was sought from within the design industry, both the Design Institute of Australia (DIA) and the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) provided firm positions on this topic. Industry best practice is strongly opposed to ‘free pitching’ (ie when clients access design ideas free of charge as part of the tender process). It is viewed as unethical and unsustainable for clients and designers. Both associations recommend that tenders should be based on demonstrated ability through a portfolio of work; relevant professional experiences; and professional qualifications, such as Advanced Diplomas or Degrees in design.

Experiences and expectations across government

Recent projects in DPAC, Treasury, TasTAFE, DHHS, DoE, and DoJ have not involved requesting creative as part of the tendering/quoting process. Instead, the RFT/Q has been framed with sufficient relevant criteria to ensure that creative is not necessary to select a successful provider, and that companies only need to demonstrate the capacity to deliver the creative.

Tourism Tasmania and State Growth have taken a different approach, and described requesting creative as part of the tendering process as essential for the work they do. Tourism Tasmania provided a number of reasons for this – they have a two-stage tender process that requires companies who are shortlisted to complete a task as part of the RFT. This is so Tourism Tasmania can see their idea development process, understanding of the brand, and ability to work within a budget. In this sense, the new creative work is crucial to allow them to compare “apples with apples”. They also tender for long-term contracts, meaning that the company they select will deliver ongoing creative material over time. This means that they are not requesting creative as part of the RFT/Q for one-off, short-term campaigns. Tourism Tasmania’s creative account is also considered as a significant and prestigious medium-to-long term account to manage, and as such it is appropriate to have a rigorous selection process that includes the creation of new creative.

The take home message?

A best practice approach to procurement of creative services should include clearly defined criteria to ensure that companies can demonstrate their capacity to deliver the creative through evidence of experience and ability (such as through a portfolio of work, relevant professional experiences, and professional qualifications). This negates the need to ask a company to develop creative as part of the initial pitch.

However, when it becomes necessary to request creative as part of the process, there are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that the RFT/Q is done within the purchasing principles embodied in The Treasurer’s Instruction 1101.

  • Pay for creative to be presented.
  • Use a two-step tendering process involving a request for proposal which could include the provision of creative by shortlisted companies, rather than the whole field.

Want to know more?

If you are unsure, contact your agency’s communications and marketing area to clarify the preferred process in your department.

You can find more information on communication procurement (including the principles and policy requirements) in the Communications Policy.