What does a request for proposal mean?

An RFP is usually just an email from the advertiser or agency. This email formally invites the publisher to submit a proposal for consideration and includes relevant details about the campaign such as:

  • Anticipated run dates
  • Advertiser objective
  • Budget (may include multiple levels)
  • Target audience
  • Geographic restrictions (e.g., U.S. only)
  • Ad units available
  • Special requests or preferences (such as mobile placements or high share-of-voice)
  • Metrics for evaluation (e.g., cost per click, cost per new client, etc.)
  • Due date for proposals

An RFP will generally include two related documents:

  1. A summary brief that lays out the details of the campaign (i.e., the bullet points above; this is often a Word doc or PDF)
  2. A template into which the details of the proposal should be entered (generally an Excel document)

If you’ve received an RFP, your next steps should involve reviewing the campaign brief and starting to work on completing the proposal document. The Premium section below contains some tips for addressing some of the more common challenges that arise when going through this process.

Close, But Not There Yet

As discussed more in the Premium section below, receipt of an RFP is generally a very good sign. Advertisers or agencies typically only send RFPs to publishers whom they intend to seriously consider for the upcoming campaign. But getting an RFP does not mean that you’re guaranteed to see a spend; depending on the budget, timing, and several other factors, it is common for 10% to 50% of publishers who receive an RFP to be excluded from the final campaign.

There are three objectives in completing an RFP that will help to increase the likelihood of inclusion in the final spend:

  • Competitive: The ultimate goal is to deliver a proposal that both: 1) looks attractive to the advertiser / agency and 2) will deliver value based on the primary campaign metrics. If your proposal gets accepted but doesn’t perform, you likely won’t be invited back for future spends. If, however, you prove that your site is able to deliver significant value, you may have a recurring revenue stream. Our premium entry on Bonus Media includes some good tips on this topic.
  • Accommodating: RFPs tend to make a lot of special requests, such as highlighting new and creative placements. Read through the documents carefully, and do your best to include proposed items that satisfy the requests (more on this strategy in the Premium section below).
  • Accurate: At the risk of stating the obvious, only include line items that you can deliver. If you propose am idea that looks great but can’t be executed, you’ll only face major headaches later.

Though the situation obviously varies by agency and advertiser, receipt of an RFP is generally a very positive sign. Most advertisers / agencies conduct the majority of the vetting process before sending out RFPs, in order to avoid reviewing a massive amount of proposals. This is especially true if the advertiser has run numerous campaigns before; they may regularly invite new publishers to “audition” to be included, but will often have a pretty good idea of the sites they want to include well ahead of time.

Still, it’s important to take all RFPs very seriously; a spend is never won until the ads start running.

RFP Confidentiality

RFPs generally come with some form of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements; this can be a formal document that publishers will have to sign and send back, or simply a notification within the email indicating that confidentiality is required. This requirement is understandable; advertisers don’t want details of their advertising campaigns to become public information accessible to competitors and publishers who weren’t included.

However, many publishers are happy to share information about RFPs with other sales reps anonymously. This occurs most frequently through SellerCrowd, a community where information is regularly shared with the aid of usernames that protect real identities (a link is included in the resources section below).

Common RFP Challenges

An RFP can be intimidating, especially if it’s one of the first you’ve received or a particularly large dollar amount. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Challenging Requests. In many cases, publishers may find themselves struggling to come up with proposed line items that match the requests of the advertiser. Don’t worry if you’re unable to match the requests perfectly; the brief is often prepared as a theoretical idea, but standard placements are often still welcome.
  • Simple is OK. Many times RFPs will express a desire for placements that are new, creative, and cutting edge. If this is the case, it’s probably wide to allocate at least part of the spend to such ideas. But it’s also OK to allocate most of the budget to simpler, more traditional line items (e.g., IAB standard ad units). When it comes down to it, many agencies will select the simpler ad options in order to end up with a more efficient campaign.
  • Fulfilling Technical Specs. Some RFPs will require some knowledge of your site’s technical capabilities. Typically, the indicated requests are standard, but publishers should confirm that they will be technically capable of serving anything they propose.


RFP Best Structure

To provide an RFP, you need to tailor your RFP to best articulate your company’s need, its includes: 

  1. Background/Introduction

You’ll want to include useful background information about your company. If any vendor is serious about working with you, they’ll want this information before moving forward

  1. Project goals and scope of services

You’ll want to outline the project you need completed, and the goals you expect to accomplish from the project. It’s important you get as specific as possible

  1. Detail Schedule

It’s crucial you include a detailed schedule, so vendors know if they can meet your deadline. You’ll also need to give vendors a window for when they can ask questions regarding the project. 

  1. Timeline

By including the time frame in your RFP, you’re able to eliminate any vendor who can’t work within your time constraints. 

  1. Elements of proposal

If you don’t outline clearly and specifically what you expect bidders to include in their proposal, you can’t necessarily fault them if they don’t include it. It’s critical you outline a checklist so vendors know which elements you’re expecting to receive. It’s also a good test for who’s capable of handling your demands

  1. Evaluation Criteria

Outlining your expectations will help eliminate vendors who don’t meet them. For this section, you’ll want to do some brainstorming with your team to come up with a mandatory list of items you feel are the best indicators of impressive candidates

  1. Roadblocks

you’ll want to outline any roadblocks, such as limited resources or a custom website, that might prevent certain vendors from successfully completing the project

  1. Budget

Any vendor needs to know how much you’re able to pay them for their services before they’ll move forward with their bid

Find the Right Solution

The importance of an RFP in business is to help your company find the solution for which you’re looking. It’s a critical element that helps your organization as you’re searching for a partner with specific expertise. Businesses that need to solve a problem, such as improving their marketing or branding, for example, put out an RFP so that marketing firms can bid on the project.

The business then sees qualified candidates who know exactly what your business requires. This saves time because the business doesn’t need to sift through dozens of applications and waste time speaking with companies that may not meet the budget, timeline or skills standards.


What is a request for a proposal mean?

A Request For Proposal (RFP) is a document containing details about a project, as well as solicits bids from contractors who will help complete the project

What is included in a request for proposal?

A Request For Proposal (RFP) a statement of work, describing tasks to be performed by the winning bidder and a timeline for providing finished work

When is the request for a proposal needed?

RFP should be used when a project is sufficiently complex, requires a great deal of technical information, solicits hard data for analysis and compression, and thereby warrants a formal proposal  

What are the RFP requirements?

The primary purpose of an RFP is to transmit the understanding of the requirement for a project to suppliers who you believe can provide solutions