Here's the thing: Southwest was asking for a lot; I mean a LOT. The "required deliverables" of the RFP included 13 points; here is just one of them: "a complete promotional plan evaluating our current brand image including logo and tag line, with detailed project budget, timeframe and responsibilities to include incorporation of suggestions for special events, activities and PR opportunities to minimize cost and maximize effectiveness." The other 12 were equally involved.
But that's not the issue. After all, if you think a prospective client is asking for too much, you have the option to simply not participate in the RFP. No one is holding a gun to your head, and you can't blame an organization for trying to get as much as they can.
The real issue was the lack of available data to support the development of the deliverables requested. While Southwest was well-intentioned in providing a tremendous amount of background material (census driven market data, original research, samples of literature, etc.) and equally responsible in terms of answering agency questions (I called the marketing director several times and she was tremendously responsive and helpful). Still, there simply was not enough supporting data to provide the required deliverables.
So, guess what we did? We provided all the deliverables that we were able to and we addressed those that we couldn't by proposing the implementation of a more comprehensive research study that would provide essential data to support the other desired deliverables. We could have just made up a bunch of stuff based on our experience servicing other health care systems (Cleveland CLinic, University Hospitals, Grace Hospital, Summa Health System, Samaritan Regional Health System, etc.), but that would have been totally irresponsible. So we didn't do that.
And it will likely cost us the opportunity to get the account. We did the right thing and we will likely not be rewarded for it. And some other agency will likely get the opportunity because they were willing to create logo and ad concepts and propose PR and marketing strategies (even though they didn't have the necessary knowledge to do it responsibly).
In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, "and so it goes." But then again, maybe I am wrong and maybe I will be surprised and we will get a call from Southwest telling us they loved our direct and honest approach.