Frequently Asked Questions

A request for proposals – also known as an “RFP” or a “call for tenders” – can generate a lot of questions. And that’s completely normal, given how important the selection process is.


That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and their answers. For more information, download our Agency Selection Guide or contact our team.

1. Why did we develop our Agency Selection Guide?

The agency selection process is becoming increasingly complex and expensive for both agencies and clients. That’s why the A2C decided to share with the industry a collection of proven best practices that have been used around the world. This guide is designed to optimize the selection process to help build a business partnership that is conducive to clients’ success and the financial health of A2C’s member agencies.


2. How do I make sure I’m choosing the right agency?

Start by determining your needs and objectives, then adopt a selection process and criteria accordingly. Asking the right questions to validate expertise, experience, references and cultural compatibility, just as you would when looking for a new key employee, will help you find the right strategic and creative partner. Our Agency Selection Guide can help you do just that.


You could also test the waters with a small project. That said, the effort you invest into the client-agency relationship will make a big difference in achieving your objectives and enhancing your client experience.


3. Do I have to launch a request for proposals process?

No. You can select an agency based on recommendations, the agency’s reputation or through one-on-one meetings. As such, a direct approach or a no-bidding process can be an excellent, faster and yet still rigorous alternative.


However, some companies, organizations and bodies are subject to governance or procurement rules that require an invitational or public tendering process to be held in certain circumstances.


4. Does the same process apply to all agency types?

Yes. The proposed process applies to all types of agencies, but some assessment criteria differ.


5. Does the same process apply to small projects?

No. It’s recommended that you launch a request for proposals only for large-budget and long-term projects. For smaller projects, it’s preferable to use a simplified selection process based on a preliminary search for the required expertise, and then hold one-on-one meetings.


6. In my selection process, can I ask for a strategy, creative brief or media plan?

No. A call to tenders is first and foremost an opportunity for agencies to present themselves and their experience, expertise and achievements, not to provide speculative work for which they would normally be paid. Considering that you’re seeking to select an agency, not a particular advertising campaign or project, choosing the best agency to meet your needs can and should involve a selection process that excludes speculative work of any kind.


7. How many agencies should I invite to bid?

The number of agencies varies according to the type of process you choose:

  • In a no-bidding process, it’s a good idea to meet with three or four preselected agencies.
  • In a process by invitation, it’s recommended that you invite no more than five agencies, then meet with a maximum of three during stage 2.
  • In a public (open to all) call for tenders, it’s best to limit the number of agencies to three who will proceed to stage 2.

Keep in mind that, on the one hand, participation in any selection process requires a substantial investment for agencies. On the other hand, you’ll also have to invest a lot of time and energy to assess the proposals you receive.


8. How long will the selection process take?

Not including the time you’ll spend preparing the request for proposals, it takes about two to three months to complete the entire process.

That’s why, a direct (non-competitive) approach and a no-bidding process are excellent options to consider if you’re short on time and your governance rules allow it.


9. Do I have to pay agencies during the selection process?

No. So long as your selection process complies with the recommendations outlined in the Agency Selection Guide and excludes any speculative work, you don’t need to pay the agencies involved.


10. During the RFP process, do I have to share the responses I receive during the selection process with all the agencies involved?

It’s a good idea to be transparent and share this information with all the agencies involved. This gives everyone an equal opportunity and builds mutual trust right from the start.


11. What distinguishes an A2C member agency from other agencies?

To become an A2C member, an agency must meet certain eligibility criteria. They are then required to respect a code of ethics and uphold the highest standards of practice and quality in the marketing communications industry. A2C agencies also believe and invest in the growth of the industry, participating in numerous initiatives to develop the next generation of professionals. They are the best in their field and ready to work with you. Together, A2C member agencies account for roughly 85% of the industry’s revenue in Quebec.


12. I’m launching a new RFP by invitation. Do I have to invite my current agency?

It all depends on why you’re relaunching your call for tenders. For instance, if it’s because of the governance and procurement rules to which your organization is beholden, then the answer is yes. If the reason is that you’re dissatisfied with your current agency, and you don’t think they’re likely to qualify again, be respectful of the time they’ll have to invest in creating an RFP and be honest with them from the start.


13. What are the recommended time frames for a tendering process?

Allow at least two months for the selection process, as the minimum recommended time between each step is 15 to 20 working days. These time frames should be longer during the holidays and over the summer, and should always take statutory holidays into account. The more time you give agencies to prepare, the greater the number of agencies that will be able to participate.


14. Can I work with an agency that is already working with a competitor? And can or should I ask for exclusivity?

Rather than requiring an agency not to work with any of your competitors, look for an agency with relevant experience in your field or a related one. If you’re looking for some kind of exclusivity, agencies may be able to offer you exclusivity in terms of the resources (i.e., a dedicated team) and office (e.g., their Montreal office) that will be working on your brand rather than exclusivity in terms of the entire agency and its establishments. This is the model used by business consultants who possess strategic information. For these consultants, working for direct competitors is common practice and perceived as expertise in a specific field.


An increasing number of clients also work with more than one agency. It is therefore normal in this type of relationship not to demand exclusivity from an agency if, as a client, you do not offer them exclusivity in terms of your projects.


If some form of exclusivity is still required, it can be negotiated with the agency and may justify certain special conditions.


15. How much does it cost to work with an agency?

An agency can work with different budget sizes. What’s more, they create custom solutions for each client and project. Consequently, there is no predefined, universal price. The A2C represents agencies of varying sizes and specializations, so budgets may vary according to the type of project and agency required.


As such, it’s essential to specify a budget or budget range that represents your investment in marketing communications for a given period or project.


For more information, check out the Agency Remuneration section of the guide.


16. Can I get help from professionals for this process?

Yes. The A2C can support you in this endeavour and answer your questions regarding implementing a selection process that’s right for you. You can also hire a neutral external consultant who can assist and guide you in developing a selection process.