Don’t Take the Bait

The other day I walked into the pharmacy, picked up a deodorant and walked out of the store. I plan to try it, and if I like it, I will go back and pay for it. Most of you are probably thinking that sounds crazy. But that is, in fact, exactly what SPEC (or speculative work) is, and it’s time for agencies to stop doing it and for clients to stop asking for it.

SPEC work is essentially free work created for a prospective client, with the assumption that if said client likes the work, it will hire the agency. Up until a few years ago, SPEC work was a relatively rare request in the branding world, but not anymore. It’s now a regular ask from small companies and fortune 500 clients alike. What’s worse is many agencies continue to do SPEC, which perpetuates the practice and affects the entire industry.

The approach may be different, but the ask is always the same and never works out in either the company or the agency’s favor. To be fair, we truly believe that most potential clients mean well when asking for SPEC; they just don’t understand why what they are asking for isn’t reasonable and won’t actually get them what they want.

In an effort to try and put this practice to bed, we’d like to share the pitfalls of this approach and some better practices to employ instead.

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