Amazon’s “city pitch” is a loser from an ad agency’s perspective
by Gary Mattes, CEO
When Amazon opened up the opportunity to cities to be the location for its next North American headquarters, of course every community hoped they had a shot. Why not? There aren’t many opportunities to change the fortunes of a city in one fell swoop.
The problem is that most cities are expending resources on this “pitch” when they are already hemorrhaging money, without much opportunity to increase revenues. It doesn’t take a bookie to see these are bad odds—it just takes someone in the agency business.
The process of choosing an ad agency has often entailed the “agency pitch”—not too dissimilar to the city pitch. But when an opportunity comes up to pitch, smart agencies look for red flags. More important than a well written RFP/RFI, has the company defined what they are truly looking for? What areas of expertise are they focusing on? What type of agency do they want: large or boutique? Do they need to be a B2B or B2C agency? When a company does this homework, it narrows the viable candidates. Only those viable agencies—generally, 3-6 of them—are the ones who should be invited to the shootout.
Agencies spend thousands of dollars of their resources to “pitch” an account. Before undertaking this process, you need to know that you have a shot. This is not a fairy tale. Rarely does the underdog win.
Contrast that to Amazon. Amazon’s open cattle call solicited over 200 proposals. It managed to narrow that to 20. When you look at the collective “tax dollars” that have been spent to pitch Amazon and will yet be spent, the number is mind-boggling. Only one city will be chosen, and even winning is a dubious honor, since it offers Amazon huge tax breaks and other incentives, further straining any city’s infrastructure.
Jeff Bezos is a smart man, but he should have been more respectful of the cost to American cities and made his team do its homework. It’s what any good client would do.