The Government’s pitches for marketing services have been beset with problems. In the latest twist, agencies preparing for the final round of bidding in the e-auction for the strategy and planning framework were told the day before the contest that it had been postponed while the Government Procurement Service reviews "all feedback" to "ensure a successful outcome".
In the first stage of the process this summer, advertising and media agencies filled out responses to three theoretical briefs through the Government’s website. Although some agencies said at the time that the process was "straightforward", Goodstuff Communications pulled out citing concerns that bigger agencies could "buy their way on to the roster".
Agencies were then given a ranking based on their submissions. Two weeks ago (28 August), they were able to improve that ranking by cutting their costs in an e-auction. Sources suggest that, while the Government did not set a time limit for the auction, the eight hours of bidding were unprecedented.
Panicking as they dropped down the rankings, agencies kept reducing their prices to stay in the game.
The auction was supposed to resume the next day, but the system went down and it was postponed for a week. Then, a day before the rescheduled date, agencies got an e-mail informing them of a further delay. Many of the agencies involved were reluctant to comment on the process on the record, but were quick to express their frustration privately.
Among the concerns is that agencies that can afford to run the account at a loss will accept doing so because of the prestige of sitting on a Government roster and the new-business opportunities that it may bring.
The Government has stuck by its framework, despite the protestations of agencies that unsuccessfully competed for a place on the creative roster. However, with the big media buying contract up for grabs next, it is important that the process regains some credibility.
At the time of writing, the GPS has yet to confirm when the e-auction will take place, or if there will be any changes to the process. So, is the GPS review fit for purpose?