Let’s talk Spec

Advertising Age – CMO Strategy – Why Spec Creative Doesn’t PayTom Denari wrote this interesting article about why spec creative simply is not the way to choose your agency. He has some great points.

I agree with the fact that spec should not be THE reason you choose an agency. He goes on and says that spec creative is developed with very minimal if any input from the client. Collaboration is diluted.

Companies hold agencies to truly understanding their markets, business and target audiences yet many choose agencies on spec based on limited insights and collaboration.

Companies ask for spec to put the agency to the “test”. They want to see how we think. However, they want direct relevancy because at times it is difficult for them to tie the thinking that went into the portfolio work to their challenges.

Tom compares the selection process to the way someone would interview for a CMO role. They wouldn’t ask you to sketch out their marketing strategy. They perform a rigorous interviewing process and past experience and work evaluation.

Instead, he writes about a simple change in the process. Really get to know the firms. Instead of having the agencies spend days and days on work that may never be used, spend quality time with the people that would work with you. Find out how they work with each other. Are they connected to each other? Are they cohesive? Go out to dinner with them. Meet them in different environments to see the culture brand that you may be purchasing. Value this process time a much as you would value a long term purchase.

Conversely spec does have a place in the process when applied and defined efficiently. Spec could be the means that an agency gets invited to participate in a pitch. Or a means to offer thanks to the company for taking the time to meet with the agency. But the important fact is that the spec work is marketing the agency/client relationship opportunity and not the actual client strategy work.

I like Tom’s quote at the end: “Still think that a non-spec process is risky? Not nearly as risky as choosing an agency based on a campaign that’s designed to win your business, not move your business.”

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