Today it is very different, with briefs emanating from purchasing departments that probably have a global purchasing policy, so any number of agencies from different parts of the world could be competing against each other.
Indeed, I have been involved in an automotive pitch where there were so many agencies contacting the destination that the suppliers refused to quote. I eventually found out a site inspection had already taken place several months before with the incumbent agency. It was purely process for process sake.
Now there are painstakingly detailed documents that need to be laboriously completed just to get you to the starting gate. They may provide basic information but can they convey anything about the soul of the agency, the quality of its people, and its commitment to building a productive relationship? How does it benefit a client to use an agency with all the requisite resources if there is no chemistry? Staff in successful agencies are so highly focused on delivering client programmes they have little time to devote to this type of activity.
Surely clients with sophisticated purchasing operations should have developed systems that simplify identifying potential partners? There has be a better approach that meets the aspirations of client and agency alike. An approach that makes more effective use of everyone's time and talent.