Traditional agency searches are inefficient and ineffective for Brands

The RFP selection process, for all types of clients, brands & agencies, is flawed. That’s why we’re pushing “to retire the RFP” from global business practice.

And we’ve got a firm plan for what should replace it. Our QBS Agency Search Guide focuses on QBS (Qualification-Based Selection), a process that will ultimately help client organizations to buy creative services that are critical, complex, and customized.

We’ve focused the rationale and arguments for using the QBS methodology around efficiencies for clients and delivering greater levels of effectiveness. It’s a simple process to implement and manage, and should prove highly effective at identifying the right partner.

The guide is available free of charge to marketers and procurement people and covers the following areas in detail:

  • Issues with the current RFP process
  • What to do before an agency search
  • What to do after an agency search
  • Preparing for your first QBS agency search

Frequently Asked Questions

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See below for an Introduction to QBS.

QBS Agency Search - Introduction FAQ

Why is it time to change the agency selection process?

Along with identifying the best agency, the process should be fair, transparent, efficient and provide a tangible method for quantifying the value and relevance of expertise. Unfortunately, the traditional price-based Request for Proposal (RFP) process falls short. This approach has long been recognized by agencies and other professional services firms (ranging from architecture to IT to management consulting) and leaders in the procurement community, as a race to the bottom that serves neither the interests of the agency nor the client.

What is QBS agency selection?

Qualification-Based Selection was developed many decades ago to overcome the shortcomings of the price-based RFP. It is a procurement process that focuses on finding the most qualified provider of professional services, at a fair and negotiated price, instead of the least qualified provider, at an artificially low price. It is perfect for professional services that are custom, complex, and costly.

What are the elements of a good agency search?

  • A quick, low-cost process for both client and agency.
  • Focus on collaboration and value, and don’t create an adversarial stance.
  • Clear and obvious selection criteria and scoring rubrics that create separation, not clustering.
  • Fair and unbiased, and with a transparent and appropriate amount of competition.
  • Contests and spec creative are never appropriate, and respect the IP and expertise of the participants.
  • Selection of the most qualified firm at a fair price instead of least qualified firm at a low price.

How do I prepare for my first QBS agency search?

A well-written standardized RFP document that you typically use for agency searches is a fair starting place. The easiest way to shift to a QBS process from an RFP process is to simply use your existing RFP document and change the weighting of price to 0%. Then distribute the percentage that was previously assigned to price and assign it to expertise. If you do not have expertise as an evaluated criterion then create it and make sure it is heavily weighted.

Going a step further, in our model we advocate that expertise is the ONLY evaluated criteria and that all other criteria are mandatory and not evaluated. 

What are the elements of a QBS (Qualification-Based Selection) agency search?

The goal of a QBS agency search is to help marketers and procurement find the most qualified agency that they can afford. Reviewing speculative creative is not an effective, nor an efficient, way to determine qualifications. Agencies in a QBS search submit case studies that are Performance-Framed and present the agency’s ability to replicate success. Going beyond the standard case study format of Problem / Solution / Outcome, Performance-Framed Case Studies require the agency to provide evidence of their process to show how they work with a client through the twists and turns of an engagement and how they achieved success.

Some of the other elements of a QBS search are:

  • Start with an RFI to limit Phase 1 participants to 6-8 agencies
  • A disclosed budget
  • A clear and transparent scoring rubric
  • Both evaluated and mandatory criteria
  • Limited proposal pages to save your team time and energy and to get succinct and creative submissions from agencies
  • Proprietary questions to encourage high innovation
  • Disclosure of distribution
  • Interviews to interrogate case studies, expertise, team members, leadership and qualifications
  • A robust debrief with all short-listed agencies
  • Price is still very important…you’ll just be negotiating with the most qualified agency

To find out more about these elements and full details on how to manage a successful QBS agency search, complete with all of the templates you’ll need, please complete the form above.