Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sharing Information

A fellow art buyer posted the following question on a forum that I thought I would share here. How do you feel about reps asking "Who else is bidding the job? And what other photographers are we bidding against?"

There were differing opinions. Some felt it was fine to share and be honest, others felt it was better to keep it to themselves until the job is awarded (thinking more photographers and reps will be more competitive in their bidding).

Another comment was that "it should be an even field, they should be estimating/bidding based on the project, not who they are up against."

The reason why some art buyers will not share the information is because they are looking for a true competitive bid. Some feel that photographers might pull out of the bid process if they feel they have a disadvantage with people they are bidding against(which has and will happen). Another buyer mentioned "not sharing this information at the beginning of the process can help assure that production budgets are not being compromised or shared between competitive photographers/reps before a final award decision."

Here's the deal... Most art buyers will be honest with you in the bidding process because while we are working for the agency and ultimately the client we are also an advocate for the photographer. Whether or not the art buyer is comfortable sharing the competitors information is a side note. We'll give you the budget up front if we know we have a number that we have to hit. Otherwise it's a normal bidding and negotiating process. What we normally won't share is where the numbers are coming in between the competing bidders.

As for my opinion, I don't see any harm in sharing the information of who is also bidding on the job as long as the parties are responsible with that information.


Tony Novak-Clifford said...

I have always wondered what the reaction from art buyers was to this question. I have always asked, always adding to caveat "feel free to decline to answer".

On a national, international advertising campaign... even for national editorial, the playing field may be close to even amongst those invited to bid. I can assure you, however, that on a local level (at least MY local level), there are quite a few projects that go out to bid directly from clients with no agency affiliation, less visual savy and are completely budget driven. Often in those situations, the photographers given an opportunity to bid run the gamut from very competent to not. The other question I always add when approached about these types of projects is "is the bottom line the bottom line...". If the answer is yes and if the potential client is willing to share the names of the competitive photographers and should I know that my bid will be far greater than any of the other bidders (from many years of experience), I will just as often decline to participate, preferring to save the time of preparing the paperwork for a professional proposal, knowing that I it will amount to nothing in the end.

That said, there have been quite a few times when asked to bid on a major project with a professional art buyer. I have asked the question, gotten an honest answer and in the end, have ended up making perhaps a higher and ultimately successful bid than I might have otherwise.

It's a tricky thing to negotiate. In some respects, I agree that the bid should reflect the scope of the project, not the competition. Still, the fact remains that each project is in some way unique,each art buyer has their own budget and goals to accomplish and knowing what the level of competition is can be very helpful. I would never ask a client or art buyer what a competitor has actually bid... simply knowing who the players are has been enough information.

It has also been a rare occurrence when I have sensed real reluctance to answer the question. I have always assumed that other photographers ask and know when I'm bidding against them.