My guess is that the spec work pitch gained momentum during the heyday of advertising (1980s) when account budgets were obscene and unguarded and advertising agencies went the extra mile to support their clients in spending every penny of those budgets. Profit was embarrassing and cash flow was overflowing. So, doing free work was doable, not because someone felt it was fair, but because it wasn’t really free. The creative time put into spec work was supplemented by existing clients who were being over billed through oversized production markups and padded time sheets. And everyone was happy and everything was awesome (insert favorite 80s song now). It was the 80s baby! And the 90s weren’t too shabby either.
Today is another story. In general, marketing budgets have tightened and they are more consistently being monitored and measured for results. It’s like the advertising industry had a big party in the 80s and 90s and then in the 2000s its parents came home and said clean up this mess. Now, we are being asked to be more responsible with our clients’ smaller budgets. It’s a change that simply means marketers must work harder to earn their money. And, that’s how it should be. Dang it, parents are always right.
Though we have seen change for the better in our industry over the past three decades, the industry practice of offering free work to win a client’s business is still active. First of all, where’s the love of your product? Giving it away for free greatly devalues it. The product marketing firm’s create is made from each team’s unique expertise and talent. Its value is significant. As long as we continue to accept the free work request or agree to completing the 50 page RFP to get a shot at pitching in person, clients are going to keep asking us to do it. It’s 2015. We’ve paid our dues for our actions in the 80s and 90s. We can’t afford to give our time away for free. And, we should never think that this action is reasonable.
Today, our team at EXIT declares that we will no longer do spec work or fill out RFPs. If you want to do business with us, let’s meet in person and discuss your company’s marketing needs and how we can help meet them. That’s time efficiently and effectively spent for both client and agency. And then, if you decide to partner with us, we promise to produce the level of work and results worth paying for.