A Shady Past? Avoid This Pitch

Agencies are being asked for all sorts of odd things in reviews these days, but the $70 million DuPont search includes some truly unusual requests.

Among the standard-issue questions about billings and services in the client’s request for information is one that asks shops to “provide details about hiring and screening and/or background checks of employees,” including criminal-background checks. Another section requires agencies to provide details about their disaster-recovery programs.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen it, but I’m not surprised by it,” said one agency executive. A criminal-background check may be necessary because of DuPont’s extensive use of dangerous chemicals, the executive said. (Similar questions are often found in government RFPs, but they usually do not appear this early in the process.)

One executive noted the RFI came out of the company’s purchasing department, rather than marketing—another aspect that has agencies concerned.

The review committee will comprise about 25 executives, a DuPont representative said. The process, expected to take about three to six months, will be “data-driven” and is “all about being more efficient,” said a source.

The RFI was sent to both roster and nonroster agencies; 22 shops responded by last Thursday’s due date, the DuPont rep said. Among them were roster shops McCann-Erickson (corporate image and Lycra fabrics), BBDO (Stainmaster) and Doner (textiles and solid surfaces), as well as Young & Rubicam, Saatchi & Saatchi, Fallon, Grey, Ogilvy & Mather, DDB and Foote, Cone & Belding, according to sources. —with Tanya Irwin