The consultant conducting the review for Lowe's Home Centers' $100 million advertising business has raised eyebrows at agencies invited to pitch the account by asking them to pay what appeared to be an entrance fee.
Chuck Meyst, chairman and chief executive officer of consultancy Business Partnering International, is spearheading the screening process for Lowe's.
Richmond, Va.-based Business Partnering International (BPI) operates Agencyfinder.com, an Internet service which screens shops for possible inclusion in advertising account reviews at no cost to the client.
Like some other pitch consultants, Agencyfinder.com makes its money from fees charged to shops. The company levies a onetime $2,500 "certification fee" and an "annual registry fee" of $3,000, both of which are listed on BPI's Internet site.
Clients can ask that shops not registered with the BPI Web site be allowed to pitch their account, Meyst said. A nonregistered agency is informed it is on a client's invitation list, told the name of the company and sent an invoice for payment. In a case where an agency opts not to pay, Meyst said, he notifies the client. He conceded, however, that he has no legal recourse against shops that do not pay.
The North Wilkesboro, N.C.-based client could not be reached for comment by press time.
Agency reaction was mixed. One executive said a $5,500 outlay as a new business expense was "pocket change" compared with what is spent each year in pursuit of accounts. Another agency official said consultants should collect their fees from the client to protect themselves from conflicts of interest.
Neither source's shop was registered with the review consultant's Web site.