Governments all over the world are big spenders in the advertising and communications sector and South Africa is no exception. It therefore makes great business sense for ad agencies to learn how to work with government and parastatal organisations and, although the nature of these contracts is quite different from the private sector, the type of work and the resultant income can be of great mutual benefit.
So why then are not more agencies looking to work with our government?
Why does it seem that the same agencies seem to win government pitches and tenders time after time?
As the IAS we have worked with a few government departments and parastatals during pitch processes, tenders and even client:agency relationship management exercises, and here are a few observations that might encourage more agencies to look at government business with different eyes and a more optimistic attitude.
Become expert at filling in tender documents
Creative types are the last people who will wish to fill in a tender document. Build a small team of very competent admin-orientated types who will become better and better at completing all of the bureaucratic forms that accompany tenders. If these are not completed correctly, or if any of the attachments are left out such as SARS tax clearance or BEE certificate, then the tender document and any accompanying excellent technical strategy, or creative input, will simply be dumped in the reject bin.
The team must learn to look for the tender advertisements in the appropriate publications and submit regularly. Gradually an agency becomes known in this space and becomes more familiar among the small audience.
Documents must be ‘built to last’ throughout the process which sometimes takes months. Understand that many people will read and handle your documents so they must be able to withstand some rough handling.
Make sure that the team has read the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) and is familiar with its content and rules.
Be clear on invoicing
We have heard many agencies complain that they do not get paid when they do government work. In our experience this is not the case if invoices are correctly done, are within the agreed financial budgets, and are presented timeously. The PFMA provides very clear rules and regulations for any service provider to government as well as a route to go if agencies have complaints. Government is legally bound to follow these rules.
Do great work – push the envelope
Some agencies believe that government and parastatals are unable to accept or run really great creative work. Again we have found this not to be the case. We believe that government departments and parastatals look for great work as much as their equivalents in the private sector. Interestingly, government does not have to be as accountable for sales results as a large FMCG client would be. Nonetheless they are accountable for ensuring that an ad campaign is delivered and is on message and on time.
In conclusion I would say that we all know that there is a lack of skills in our country – and we also know that ad agencies are full of highly skilled, well educated people. We would encourage agencies to be prepared to transfer skills, build long lasting relationships and, in turn, a greater appreciation of communication techniques might well be achieved.