Peter Cowie:  Well luckily, we had the dream team; we were the dream team and you’re going to see, because we had four actually.  Giles was so excited, he couldn’t make it tonight because he’s also from McLaren he’s going round the track and just never gets out of the car! But we had Hilary Cross, total babe station! – Honestly she’s on my top girlfriend list.  Darling, come here I want to kiss you.  I love you!

Hilary Cross:  Thank you Peter, I love you too!

Peter Cowie:  I love her for two reasons! One, she’s drop-dead gorgeous and sexy, but two, she saves the world.  She is head of marketing at Macmillan, and Macmillan cancer charity is really really close to us at OystercatchersSuki has been through hell and back and we’re so lucky to have here, and she’s on the board of Macmillan and the charity are just going through the roof.  A lot of that is driven through really successful marketing that Hils, Suki, VCCP put that together, so that’s amazing.

Peter Cowie:  We have a new friend of mine, who’s Sharry, who’s a really really tough nut – really really tough and she has fantastic marketing training at Craft, then she joined Tesco, and then she went (because it’s sh*t weather here) she went to Australia for a while and worked on Target, another frigging tough retailer.  Now she’s back at Tesco, making stuff happen so it’s really really great.  Not surprisingly, she took over our group and she was immediately the leader within about 30 seconds and had us all sorted out.

Peter Cowie:  And then we had Simon Michaelides, no relation to George, if anyone knows George, and he had top training from Procter and Gamble, and also Pepsico and now is head of marketing at UKTV.  So, we had lots and lots of fun, and it was slightly weird because we were judging the RFI’s and so we were the audience of the RFI’s, and the objective of the RFI’s is to say “I really want to come and see this agency”.  And so, some of those, if you’re a target of it are very grown-up and corporate, some of those are more fun and whatever.

Peter Cowie:  So our shortlist, three delicious agencies: Creature of London, BBH, Sapient Nitro.  We love agencies and we really make a lot of effort to support agencies and enjoy all the work.  So we’ve got three here that are very different.  We had Sapient Nitro, and I always ask this question, “who is the biggest agency in London?” and everyone goes LBI, Saatchi and SaatchiSapient Nitro have 1,400 people in London and quite extraordinarily 11,000 people worldwide and really quite extraordinary.  So when they are on an RFI thing because they’re a heavy lifting digital agency, they need to make themselves look creatively interesting.  Then we had BBH who are the agency of the decade, quality.  Everyone has an expectation of the quality that BBH are going to produce so it’s a hard act to follow each time.  Then we had Creature of London who are the new sexy kids on the block, a breakaway from Mother and a bit cheeky.

Peter Cowie:  So, we looked at the criteria that we had for the category.  So remember, so the scene that we often for you newbies, when we are looking at the RFI’s that come in, say typically for a project, we’d have 10.  And we, as Oystercatchers, review them all before.  We’ve often sent them to the clients before – very rarely (and god knows how many pitches I’ve now done!), have they read them before, in reality.  So don’t expect them to have read an essay or done any of that.  They are taking our recommendation; we generally put them into three lists.  Yes definitely.  Maybe’s.  No’s.  So in this list, we were reviewing the agencies and the stuff that they put forward.  So the criteria was are they going to go the extra mile? Make an effort! Are they really hungry for my business? And there are different ways you can do that.  Production values, maybe.  Strategic insight, understanding what is, just going a little bit the extra mile, are they keen for my business? Is it relevant? Is the tone of voice relevant? That was the difficult one for us because we were reviewing them in a slightly omnipresent sort of way.

Peter Cowie:  Does it communicate quickly? So often the top ones are going – God I’ve got to see them, I think some of the examples and particularly the winner here, you’ve gone I cannot not go and see them.  Does it grab attention? Does it amuse us? Does it have a sense of humour? Am I going to enjoy working? And for the clients, having been a client myself, the agency life is the big fun part of my life.  Am I going to really enjoy working with these people? And also am I excited about seeing them?

Peter Cowie:  So, the next thing that I’ve got to do here is to show them.  So we had three on our shortlist.  There, you might like to refer to these.  There’s that glorious one, and there’s this one here.  A rather scruffy little fu**er there! A quite interesting point of view actually is how digitally we are going to be moving this forward, because we look at it through a sort of print structure as we’re sort of flicking things through, but often there’s a film that you need to look at.  So I think, we’re going to be working this through over the next year and working on some other ways to do that.  So, some questions to you my dream team, when we were going through them, and I’ll ask you Hils, we had a pile of stuff in front of us, what was it that you were looking through?

Hilary Cross:  I think Peter’s done so much talking there that he’s probably answered lots of the questions there are.  Anyway, it’s that yes and no pile.  You haven’t got a lot of time, as Jayne said when she was doing the cred’s.  You don’t have a lot of time to think “I’m going to read every single word in each one of these and give it all the attention that they think they deserve.  It’s got to go on the yes or no pile quite quickly because you’re looking at a lot of them.  It’s that immediate reaction that’s the thing that you need to look at.  What’s on the first couple of pages? Have you been grabbed? Have they been relevant to you? Is it relatively simple or are they trying to blind you with too much science that you’re just getting very bored with.  It’s a bit like when you read your newspaper and you flash over the headlines, you have to be grabbed by those headlines at the beginning.  You do want it to be personal to you to understand that they know your trade, they know your sector and they’ve done some work in your sector and they’ve really thought about you and they’ve made it very personal.  The point that I was going to make it the point that Peter said, it’s about making you smile.  It can be very serious when you’re ploughing through a whole load of statistics and numbers and proof and evidence and whatever, so if something makes you smile and makes you think: “I quite like the sound of these people, I want to meet them, I want to get them in and I want to see whether there really is any chemistry, then that I think is something that a bit of humour and, it’s simple, but something that makes you laugh I think is a really good start.

Peter Cowie:  And Sharry, the retailer, had a particular point of view on production values and RFI’s.

Sharry Cramond:  I think for us, really the RFI’s could be written on toilet paper for all we’re concerned.  It’s all about demonstrating the thinking, and also if they’re too sort of fancy, and some of them were like really fancy, we thought what next? Are the RFI’s going to come on Cartier watches? And we thought, well that would be quite nice! I think if it’s too fancy, it makes us feel it’s going to be expensive.  It’s a bit like, a good friend of mine who works for an agency who drives a Porsche 911 said don’t worry I’ll never bring it to the client meeting, because I know you don’t have it on your company car lists.  And it’s kind of a bit like that – if it’s too fancy it just makes us think it’s going to be expensive and it’s all about the thinking and showing that you really understood the sector, and it’s funny, since my appointment at Tesco was announced 7 weeks ago, I’ve had so many cold-call email things from agencies and the number that have just been sort of “dear blah-blah-blah, dear Crammond”, it just makes you think “do they really want the business? So it’s all about the thinking and as Hilary said, the personalisation.

Peter Cowie:  I think, just the point I’d say as a caveat is understand the audience.  So if you are LVMH or you are Vertu or you are McLaren, there’s a style, or you are Tk Maxx, with lovely Deborah (I will never call you Debby again wherever you are!) there is an understanding.  So if you are a retailer, it is all about making stuff move, so don’t, I take that with a slight pinch of salt Sharry, but that’s from your point of view.  So, moving on to that, what really pissed you off, from what you were looking at?

Simon Michaelides:  Two things really pissed me off.  The first thing that pissed me off was when it became evident very very quickly that what I was looking at was just an off the shelf piece of kit and I’d actually been on the receiving end, genuinely as a client, of some of the stuff that we were looking at, which confirmed for me that it was an off the shelf piece of kit.  So that upset me quite a lot on both accounts.  And I think the other thing that, I think to Sharry’s point, there was a lot of stuff that grabbed your attention initially, but then once you got through the front door, actually the effort started to wane and the ones that impressed were the ones that you couldn’t put down, the ones that made you want to carry on reading and there were some that very quickly, the effort just disappeared and it became hard work to keep going and that upset me as well.  So I think it’s the point that everyone’s made – everyone’s time starved in this situation so it’s got to be short, sharp and really grab you.

Peter Cowie:  Sharry, quite a few things pissed you off, so tell us.

Sharry Cramond:  I think because, just like everyone, we’re so busy and whenever I open something, if there was like (this is going to make me sound really dense) but if there was really long paragraphs and lots of words, I’d be like “oh god, I haven’t got time to read all of this”.  So I think, there simpler and snappier it all was the better because it just means you’ve got more of a chance of getting the message, just like any advertising really.  It’s got to be short and to the point.  And to my earlier point, I think what I meant to say was whether it was on toilet paper or whether it was really fancy, we didn’t really care.  We only cared about the thinking and of demonstrating a real understanding of the sector.

Hilary Cross:  The difference with this one is that it is flash, it comes on a iPad, it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s wonderfully presented, but that’s appropriate to the actual product and to the company.  So you know, they weren’t just trying to impress us by using something flash when they were selling something, it was appropriate.  It was for Johnnie Walker, Diageo, high premium label piece.  It was appropriately flash, not just for its own sake.

Peter Cowie:  So Hils, moving on.  From you, what was it about the better ones that gave you the sense of excitement that you really want to meet these people.

Hilary Cross:  It was something about that they’d really understood the client, that they’d had a think about it.  Obviously, at the stage of RFI you don’t want them to have put in too much time into developing every single thing that they could understand about you, but the ones that had put the effort in to actually think about the ones that you might have wanted.  They’d done a bit of research, they’d understood you and they’d come back with an appropriate response for your sector and for you personally and I think they were the ones that impressed us most.

Peter Cowie:  Ok.  So, dream team chose our winner, the winner of best RFI of the year from Oystercatchers, and our gorgeous clients, babe stations.  Will the agency who’s announced just stay where they are for the moment because the dream team have commissioned us special music for this section and we don’t want to blow that.  So I’m going to ask Sharry to announce the winner, and explain then why they won.

Sharry Crammond:  So the winner is….Creature! Can I just say that it’s not just because I’m working for Tesco and we’re all about fantastic value for money, I’d say they probably spent less on any RFI out of anyone, it was literally just a few bits of paper stapled together.  But the great thing was that we really didn’t care because they really demonstrated, it was for Tetley actually, and they demonstrated a real understanding of the market.  On each page there was probably no more than 10 or 15 words, but it was really snappy and held our attention the whole way through.  And also right upfront there was a picture of the agency team, and this sounds naff but they had the Tetley hats on and we just thought, because of all the thinking that’s demonstrated, we can really see that they take their business really seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously.  And at the end of the day, this is marketing, on the way here tonight I passed the KPMG conference along the corridor and I looked in and thought “thank God I’m in marketing” and you know you want to work people who are just a bit – well you know! We work in marketing and actually the best part of working in marketing is working with the agencies, so you want to work with people who are just a bit fun as well.  So for all these reasons, and we had a great shortlist, but they were the clear winner for us.

Peter Cowie:  And they had an insight, which was really useful, they were the agency that had worked at Mother on PG Tips, so they really understood the sector.  So rather than talk about them so much, they went straight for the jugular and said what they really knew about the sector and what this brand Tetley should be doing.  And therefore that was irresistible for the clients’ sake – we’ve got to go and see them!

Peter Cowie:  So, put on the music, bring up the team, come up Dan Shute! The music didn’t really get the production values that we spent about 15,000 quid developing!