Dayton Public Schools fail marketing 101

This is far from the first post on the extended failure of Dayton Public Schools to manage their marketing resource acquisition.

If this is your first time finding out about this, this post is the full recap, with all the documentation to let you examine the process and see how to fail at issuing an RFP for professional services. First clue- don’t have a single marketing professional on staff to help you evaluate what you are buying.

Second clue: have someone who has no knowledge of how to pick an ad agency write the RFP/RFQ.

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The initial RFP for “Comprehensive marketing services” issued by the Dayton Public Schools

With that said, here is the absolute failure that they issued to start the process. It was missing so many key pieces of information, like a budget, an objective, that it made me wonder if there was anything already written to serve as a guideline for picking an ad agency for governmental organizations. There wasn’t, so I wrote this for The Next Wave blog: Hiring An Agency: The R.F.P. Guide (for Governmental Organizations)

Well, actually I wrote it after the School Board missed their original start deadline of Sept. 21, and threw out the recommendation of their purchasing department who ran this “process” on November 1st.  It was pointed out that their “RFP process” kept favoring big firms, who they’d already worked with, and that the scoring rubric seemed to be off- especially since my firm had real diversity qualifications (Certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business by the VA, HUBzone by the SBA, Ohio ED/GE). They also wondered how a team that included a photographer, Larry Price, who has won an Emmy and the Pulitzer prize for photojournalism twice, didn’t rank higher as “qualified.” Five firms applied. Due to a cc instead of bcc on an email, I knew who the competition was. Had the process been handled competently, my bid should have been very well received.

Superintendent Corr’s answer was to suggest they go out and ask other districts how it’s done. Next came a new instrument to ask for proposals- this one, a Request for Qualifications. The difference being that the purchasing department is supposed to be ranking how qualified each agency is to do the job – to suggest who the board should consider issuing a contract with. Since there isn’t really supposed to be any proposed work, the instrument should be administered in a way that’s kind of like the Pepsi Challenge- blind of branding, just asking to see examples of past work, and describing the skill set of each organization. Yes, you can ask for prices- for a set service, but, usually, you would leave out anything that would tip off an evaluator who submitted what.

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DPS issues RFQ to replace RFP for marketing services

This wasn’t how they did it. In fact, much of the RFQ was a copy and paste job from the RFP. They were still asking for timelines, plans, and now, added how would you spend $75K. This time only 3 of the firms bid, with one subcontracting one of the other first round bidders to fill their “diversity” quotient.

The RFQ asked for a lot of “reporting” proof. Can you show that your marketing dollars spent were effective type things? Showing Neilsen numbers (as Ohlmann does for a lot of their response) doesn’t tell anyone how many widgets were sold. And, unless it’s the EFFY awards (Effectiveness), no ad awards shows actually care if your ad actually sold more widgets, but awards were important. Laughably, The Ohlmann Group bragged at length of how they’d won lots of “Mercury Awards” from the local ad club- the only problem is, they aren’t real awards given by judges- it’s a popularity contest- much like what the Dayton Business Journal does with “Best Pizza in Dayton” awards.

The RFQ, much like the RFP was based on a Board provided guesstimate of total hours of 3120- or 1.5 man years. This district is in much greater need of 1.5 man years- especially if they are hoping to do a rebrand. Both Ohlmann and The Next Wave would want to fix the website that was built in a proprietary content management system (supplied by the third bidder Upward) that has already cost the district a small fortune. Hilariously, it can only be maintained by one person in the district, the current default Public Information Officer Jill Drury, who came out of TV news and has no marketing chops.

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DPS Q&A for the RFQ

There was a Q&A issued 2 days before the turn in deadline of 20 January, 2017. In it, it clearly put a cap of $300K on the project. My firm, The Next Wave bid under it, at a fixed price to deliver 3.5 man years or 7280 hours. And, as a caveat, as long as we were on retainer and doing the work we specified- all the other stuff that they never budget or foresee, we’d do it at the effective rate of $41 an hour. The other two bidders were considerably more expensive- with the average hourly rate of $113 for the “winner” picked by purchasing and hired by the board without a contract review before the vote.

Now, what I’m asking you the reader to do, is to pretend you care about your school district, and where public dollars are spent. And take the time to actually read the proposals submitted by each of the three agencies.

Then read the score sheets/evaluators forms. Then read the contract issued to the Ohlmann Group, waiving the 48 hour rule to vote on it a week early at a meeting without public comment. Then, you decide- who had the best plan, the most cost effective proposal?

Remember that there is still a digital divide in Dayton and that the households feeding DPS schools are mostly poor and many don’t have reliable high speed internet. Also know that almost all broadcast media would have serious over-reach, delivering the DPS message to people who wouldn’t send their kids to DPS if you paid them (the exception being St. Ivers- I mean, Stivers).

That’s why The Next Wave proposal for a media spend of $75K a year was to hire someone in each neighborhood to meet the kids at the central bus stop and take attendance as the kids got on the bus. Then to follow up in the neighborhood with housecalls on homes where the kid may didn’t made it to the bus- and to try to figure out what the district can do to get the kid in school- all before the bus even makes it to the building. Novel idea? Creative? More valuable to the district than a TV campaign? You tell me. Some friends of mine who run a very hot shop in Minneapolis have a mantra- “Actions speak louder than words.” Doing things always beats talking about them in our book too.

Here are the documents provided by the DPS legal counsel for each agency. Note, she gave me scans of printouts, not the original high resolution PDF’s that each agency submitted, with the hope that the low-fi, non-ADA compliant docs wouldn’t be able to be posted and indexed as well- but, don’t worry- I ran them through OCR. Only The Next Wave doc has working links.
Note, the Ohlmann and Upward submissions both run 100 pages. The longest proposal we’ve ever done for a non-governmental client has run 6 pages. Why government purchasing departments think requiring so much information actually helps the process is beyond me.

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The Next Wave RFQ response

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The Ohlmann Group RFQ response

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The Upward Brand Interactions RFQ Response

Next is the evaluators score sheets. We were told there were 5 evaluators and that one was the superintendent. One can assume the woman from purchasing who ran this mess, Teri Allen, was also one. Obviously, after me calling for her firing after the first round debacle, she’s going to score for anyone but The Next Wave.

The comments in scoring are very different for the three firms.

Of course, my mockery of the actual RFQ in our response- which had the audacity to ask for an Org chart when DPS barely has one, isn’t helping engender warm fuzzys, but, this district has serious problems and asking about org charts makes me wonder?

How does an Org chart make you do better ads? Websites? Video production?

The real key is to read the RFP and then realize the RFQ is yet another cut and paste job- looking to create “gotchas” instead of to actually evaluate what an agency is bringing to the table.

I always tell new clients that hiring an agency is a lot like dating- it takes almost a year before you really know enough about each other to do anything really great. Of course, if you baseline is decades of mediocrity, it’s not too hard to look amazing out of the box.

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The RFQ scoring instrument

The last document is the actual contract, which was presented to the board on board docs as a $112,500 contract instead of $345K. Then there were the two additional “option years” making the whole thing a million dollar commitment.

The school board actually bought this contract, without reading it. Mostly because they were told they had a 90 day out (which was specified to all bidders in the RFQ).

The contract has one hinkey legal mistake, that should make it null and void:

2. In the event of a conflict, precedence shall be given to the following order: (1) this document, (2) the Request for Proposal, and (3) the Contractor’s proposal response, (4) “SOW’ for specified project scope.

Uh, what RFP? This was a response to an RFQ. The RFP had been withdrawn. Of course, you can’t see the top secret RFP, unless it’s actually awarded. Of course, The Next Wave proposal didn’t shy away from sharing our ideas fully- because, well, we actually care enough about this district to have done all this journalism to expose the incompetence at the top.

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The DPS contract with the Ohlmann Group

The real question is, how many people will take the time to examine all this? Probably not many.

That’s why we produced a video to walk you through the whole thing- ending with the absolutely insane meeting between Board Members Adil Baguirov, Sheila Taylor and John McManus with the representatives from the Ohlmann Group.

We’ve already posted and talked about this meeting, and a few of you watched the whole 90 minute debacle. The meeting was mostly Dr. Adil Baguirov showcasing his marketing expertise, including advocating for the use of Flash- a web application that’s almost universally despised by any modern web developer and has never been usable on any Apple iOS device.

You are probably wondering what the next step is? It’s pretty obvious that after calling for the resignation of 5 board members, and Superintendent Corr, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll change their mind and hire us. Of course, come Jan 1, 2018, there will be four new board members who may want to be able to fully explain why the current board and their picks for Superintendent and Treasurer have caused this district more trauma than triage.

There is another post coming that should clearly change the course of coming board action, but, it will take a considerable amount of time to write and fully document. It’s the final chapter for one of the DPS pretenders.

In the mean time, to those of you who take the time to read all the docs, I’d love to hear your evaluation of this three ring circus.

Political campaign hot cards and websites for less

Shameless plug, or doing my part to change the way politics work?

One of the biggest problems facing America is the high cost of running for office. I know full well how much it costs, having run more times than most (and lost).

To help cut the expense of running for office- my firm, The Next Wave, does campaign pieces- websites- printing- for a lot less than what most “political consultants” charge- and it looks better.

We just did a logo, hotcards, letterhead, envelopes, car magnet and a website for local judicial candidate Mia Wortham Spells.

Mia Spells Hot card Mia Spells Hot card back

The website is basic, but functional and responsive. Done in WordPress, with a PayPal donation engine. You can learn how to manage a WordPress website yourself by coming to one of our Websitetology Seminars, the next one is Tuesday June 23.

Our printing prices are some of the best in town- 1000 4/c, 2/s 4×6 hotcards on 16 pt stock are only $44.55 You can find more prices at www.thenextwaveprinting.com

We’re also doing design work, hotcards, banners and yard signs for Dayton City Commission Scott Sliver and signs and some other printing for Dayton School Board candidate John McManus.

We’ve done door hangers for Beavercreek Township Trustee Tom Kretz, notecards for State Rep. Jim Butler,  Butler Twp. Trustee Joe Flanagan, Liberty Twp. Trustee candidate Rhonda Freeze and of course former Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell and city commission candidate David Greer (one of my favorite portrait shoots). This is mostly in the name of full disclosure- and just because we do design and print for these people, doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement.

What’s funny is that the local Democratic party does a lot of its printing out of Columbus instead of supporting a local Service Disabled Veteran (me) and probably pays more for everything.

Don’t overpay for crappy printing for campaign literature that no one will read anyway – buy it from The Next Wave.
:-)

It’s time you elected politicians as tight with their own money as they’ll be with your money.

 

Panhandling my way to Congress wins Gold at American Advertising Federation awards

David Esrati with AAF Dayton gold for his Panhandling my way to Congress  campaign

Hermes Gold with David Esrati, candidate and ad agency owner

Usually when a Dayton ad agency wins a Hermes award at the AAF Dayton (formerly the Dayton Ad Club) annual Hermes award, the agency gives a short acceptance speech thanking the client, talking about how wonderful they are to work with.

I got to make an acceptance speech last night for my agency, The Next Wave, for work we did on my campaign for Congress last year.

“The client sucked, he has no talent” was my opening. Then I went on to remind 406 of my peers that most “political advertising” reflects poorly on our profession. I spoke of the ad done in 1994 by one of our industries greats, Jerry Della Femina, who wrote a full page New York Times ad “Don’t call it advertising.” I asked that if a candidate comes to them with a request to do a “I was born in ________, I went to ___________ school, I’m a (insert profession here) and I’m going to (insert adjective) (insert verb) for you, type ad- to force the candidate to talk about real issues- and make real promises.

Because in real advertising, if the product or service doesn’t perform as advertising- there are real penalties. In politics, they just get elected and re-elected. Unfortunately, this spot- and the one on foreclosures that won a Silver last year, didn’t get seen by enough voters to make a difference. For that to have happened, I would have had to raise at least $15K – a far deal less than Sharen Neuhardt spent on her botched run.

Here is the spot:

Please watch and share.

From winning the Hermes locally, it’s now entered to go to Regionals and then it can go to the National competition. There were over 433 entries, 238 got in ($65 an entry), a majority win bronze awards which aren’t eligible to move up, and each category (this won in the public service category) can  win one, maybe two golds out of a small pool of silvers. Only 24 Golds were awarded.

It’s a very tough competition, with local agencies doing work for Sears, Nike and other global clients. There is incredible talent in this city- much of it under-appreciated by local businesses. One former boss of mine had several entries win Silver for Chinese clients. Dayton can compete on a global stage.

Even though this spot and the foreclosure spot won, I’m most proud of the public information campaign I ran, where I posted video of almost every candidate at every candidates’ night- so that voters can be informed. It’s my goal to implement better ways for informing voters and change the nature of the process from mudslinging and money grubbing to discussions about the issues. To do that, I’ll need your support. Please consider donating to my campaign for City Commission where I’ve committed to run for under $10K.  Donate: http://electesrati.com/donate-2/

Now, out to collect signatures again in the freezing cold. :-)

Booty shorts: what product are you selling?

grey goose

“Booty shorts” Creative Commons License JASON ANFINSEN via Compfight

Today I’m trying something new. I’m writing something for my kids. I have 2 girls, currently 9 and 13. The older one (M) seems to have great desire to hang her derriere out of the bottom of her shorts. I’m approaching this from an advertising perspective since that’s what I do to put a roof over her head.

M. I’ve got a friend, Sally Hogshead (whom you met in Orlando at Starbucks before we headed home from Disneyworld) who is one of the most brilliant advertising minds I know. She’s also pretty hawt, just like you. It’s no secret among us in the advertising world that sex sells stuff. It’s one of those things in life that works better than it should- but it’s also intellectually weak, so we tend to try not to use it when we don’t have to.

Sally’s no stranger to doing ads that are risque. She’s done some for Dolce and Gabbana that border on pornography, and work for the Hard Rock hotel people in Las Vegas that try to make them the ultimate “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” sort of place.

Why would advertising do ads like this? To make their products memorable, to make you have some kind of emotional punch in the gut, to ultimately make people lust after whatever it is you’re selling- even if it has nothing to do with sex or sex appeal.

I hope you are smart enough to know that very expensive sunglasses don’t make ugly people look great when you look through them- but that they can make mediocre looking  people look better wearing them. Sally used one of advertising’s tricks to make you think that as long as you’re wearing their shades, you’ll constantly be running into very sexy people because they make you feel sexy- and we know that sex sells.

While Sally can still make ads for a living, that’s not her primary profession anymore. She teaches people “How to fascinate”– it’s a pretty cool gig for her, because she’s a very interesting person from an incredibly fascinating family. Her father is an orthopoedic surgeon (and no I didn’t spell it wrong, that’s the way the Brits spell it and how Dr. Hogshead prefers it) and her older sister, Nancy Hogshead, won 3 gold medals in the Olympics in swimming and is a big proponent of Title IX (making it possible for your little sister to play football if she wants). Her brother went to Harvard and is a really smart guy too- but doesn’t jump in the limelight like his sisters. She even jokes about her last name, Hogshead (on her business card it says “A hogshead is 62 gallons, what’s your last name mean smartass?”) as driving her to stand out as someone other than the girl with a funny name in school- you thought it was a horrible name when you first heard it- didn’t you? Once you met her, you wouldn’t dare think of someone with a hog head on their shoulders would you?

The 7 Triggers for Fascination

Seven ways to be fascinating

But this post is about “booty shorts” not hogsheads. It’s about what you say when your ass cheeks are hanging out the bottom of your pants. I understand you think it’s cool to be “hawt” and have the boys all go wild when you’re around and shaking your butt when you walk- but lets instead take an analytical look at what booty shorts are doing from Sally’s Fascination triggers. Yep, she’s come up with the science of desire- breaking down the ways we get attention and become fascinating to our audience to seven different “triggers”- tools that you have at your disposal to get and hold someone’s attention:

  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Mystique
  • Passion
  • Alarm
  • Rebellion
  • Trust

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret- when she first wrote the book “Fascinate” two of the names were slightly different. Passion was “Lust” and rebellion was “vice”- so when you see me in my The Next Wave t-shirt and it says “Create Lust • Evoke Trust” you may better understand why Sally and I worked together. We both came to the same conclusions and put them into similar words. When we were still working on the draft, before the title was finalized, there was a focus on goldfish- because research had made the claim that our attention span was now around 9 seconds- about the same as a goldfish.

Boys your age are a lot like goldfish btw, as we start exploring my rationale for “hating on” booty shorts,

So which triggers do you think you use in wearing booty shorts? Well, you can use a bunch of them at the same time – but it’s pretty easy to analyze that there are some you aren’t using: Power, and trust are both out- and although teenage boys may think you are using mystique- arousing their curiosity, you are actually doing the opposite- there is nothing left to the imagination other than seeing you with your shorts off- you’ve taken away any reason to be curious about you in a meaningful way.

Now- as to Passion- remember it used to be called lust- there is a big difference between those two terms. To be passionate about something is noble- deep and strong. To be passionate about saving the world is a lot different than to lust after everything in the world, right? It’s why Sally had to refine her thesis (a thesis is her way of explaining her ideas) so that people didn’t go off in the wrong direction. So when you’re wearing booty shorts- you aren’t using passion- you’re using lust- and it’s off the approved trigger list.

You think you are using Rebellion- because you know I don’t approve. But, it’s not from my position as dad, but from my position as an advertising guy. Remember, rebellion used to be called vice- but isn’t anymore. Being truly rebellious is defined by me as an act of courage. For the people in the Arab states who fought against their countries’ rulers- was rebellion. Showing up with a slingshot at a gunfight takes bravery- and a willingness to risk your life to make a point and try to change the world. Vice on the other hand, means doing something you know you shouldn’t do- like smoking dope, drinking to excess, gambling money you can’t afford to lose or having sex for the wrong reasons. Wearing booty shorts is a shortcut to vice- not an act of rebellion.When I was growing up, wearing jeans was consider rebellious- funny huh? And the rebel in blue jeans was James Dean, and the jeans of choice were Levi’s. But, by the time I was wearing them- everyone was. We weren’t rebelling anymore- we were just saying we wanted to be like him, because the rebellion was already over- suit and tie or slacks and dress shirts had already given way to jeans and t-shirts. To be a rebel now- booty shorts don’t really work anymore. They’ve become the Levi’s of the wannabes. Anyone can wear them- and so most of your friends in school are. That doesn’t mean they are fascinating- it means that you are all conforming and competing with each other for the vice vote.

There is the alarm trigger left. “Create urgency and need” as Sally defines it. Originally, Sally wouldn’t let “Alarm” be a primary trigger in her test that I helped her implement. Over time, she’s refined the test so it can be a primary- but it one of the hardest to use effectively- without backfiring. Politicians like to use it – coupled with fear, to get people to vote for them. It’s the trigger that can make people do things they normally wouldn’t do. Like it or not- booty shorts’ use of this trigger is like fireworks on the 4th of July- especially to boys your age- and even to men my age. They scream “look at my nearly naked butt” and tease at seeing the rest of it. This isn’t advertising- it’s pandering. It’s saying I’ll let you have a peek, a taste- it’s like giving away a free sample at Cinnabon  (one of Sally’s favorite vices) where they just know that if you have a taste you’ll want to buy a whole one.

Of all the triggers you’d want to attract boys with- is this the one you really want to use? Wouldn’t you rather use prestige, mystique, passion or trust? With Alarm- it only works until someone comes with a louder siren- a thong- and then, naked. This isn’t very difficult- any of your friends can top you in a minute on the alarm scale, it’s as easy as taking off their shorts. I would hope at this point you are starting to understand why I cringe when I see you competing for fascination with this trigger.

There are so many things to love about you, to be fascinated by, to attract boys with. All I’m asking is to ditch the booty shorts and try using a more sophisticated trigger. You want to attract boys who will stick around for more than nine seconds, don’t you? Booty shorts are goldfish bait, you on the other hand- are worthy of a lot more respect and interest.

Let’s try another trigger to fascinate, one that says you’re a unique, interesting, wonderful young woman. Because that’s how I, and the world would see you- unless you’re wearing those stupid short shorts.