Valvoline, which is in the late stages of a creative and media review, has put out calls for agencies that have experience marketing to guys in their late teens, 20s and 30s. In particular, guys who are passionate about their cars and like to do things themselves.

According to the brand’s Request for Proposal, Valvoline recognizes that it is difficult to prove differences between brands of motor oil. That’s a problem the new agency will need to solve. Of course, they would like an agency who has demonstrated the ability to overcome a similar problem before for other brands. And it would be helpful if the agency can prove that their problem-solving skills can also successfully build brand equity and increase sales. And since Valvoline will be celebrating their 150th anniversary next year and needs help in social media, they want an agency who is not just good at branding, but a firm that has a track record of generating a steady flow of digital content and ideas. Oh, one last thing, the brand doesn’t spend a lot of money in advertising and will require the agency to sign a contract with a 60-day out clause, just in case things don’t work out with the new marriage.

Valvoline’s current agency, Young & Rubicam (general market ads) and Grupo Gallegos (Hispanic market) are defending against a handful of other shops. I wish them luck.

Some clients, like Valvoline, have such specific requirements that even the best and biggest agencies wouldn’t qualify with their laundry list of demands. They want a bride that has all the attributes they have ever dreamed possible. Like 11 on a scale of 1 thru 10.
Perfume marketer Coty launched a global media agency review and has told potential candidates that it wants five months to pay its bills. According to sources, the client’s brief focuses in large part on efficiency, with little if any attention to effectiveness or consumer insights.
Omnicom’s OMD—which handles Coty media duties in the U.S. and other markets—is not participating in the review. Smart move on their part.
Let’s look at RFP’s a little differently. Imagine you’ve divorced your wife and a friend suggests you meet with a professional matchmaker to help you get back into the game. So the matchmaker asks you to prepare a Request for Proposal. And following in Valvoline’s footsteps, you ask for the following: “I want her to prove she has experience in living with a man like me who needs constant acknowledgement, a woman who is independent and likes doing things herself—especially fixing household plumbing and appliances. A woman who considers staying fit to be a lifelong mission, is always smiling, never argumentative, demonstrates an ability to genuinely laugh at all my jokes, keeps a beautiful home and is a wonderful host, makes friends easily, looks attractive, enjoys sex anytime of day or night, knows how to make a great martini, and will sign a pre-nuptial agreement in case things don’t work out.” God bless.
Yet, as difficult as it is to get married to a new agency, it seems equally difficult to get divorced.

Perhaps it’s much easier to lose an account outright than to pitch one like Valvoline or defend it. Many in the industry believe that even if the relationship is rock solid, an incumbent has a 1 in 4 chance of retaining an account that’s in review.

Point in case… the voice-over-IP service Vonage has recently named FCB Garfinkel in New York as its new agency of record, three months after parting ways with J. Walter Thompson. 3 months!!!

Vonage Chief Operating Officer Joe Redling said, “we’re excited to be working with FCB to build on the incredibly high awareness of the Vonage brand and extend the brand into business markets.” What he neglected to say is that the agency was awarded the business without a pitch because agency CEO Lee Garfinkel was able to leverage an existing relationship he had with the client.

Vita Coca also had a short run with Saatchi & Saatchi (its first agency of record), terminating their 6 month contract and moving the business in-house. So what changed? “We felt that what we needed were local (agency) partnerships rooted in (global) markets. You can say that an agency is global and has a bunch of global offices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are as entrenched in those markets,” said Arthur Gallego, spokesman for Vita Coco. In other words, it’s cheaper for us to hire local agencies than to stay with Saatchi & Saatchi, even though we thank them for giving us a brand platform that can last us a long, long time!

So win or lose, for some agencies it’s what you know that can help you win business (Valvoline) and for others, it’s who you know that can help you win business (Vonage) and for still others, it’s all about the fees, not the quality of the work. Either way, getting divorced (and married) can be painful.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter who has worked with more than 200 clients in b2c and b2b industries across digital and traditional