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So now you know how I feel about doing spec work to win new business, eh? It's something we abandoned a long time ago, for many reasons.

The main one being that if we did the spec and won the account, we spent the next 6-12 months trying to recoup the money we spent. And if we lost, then we were out a lot of time and money. It also sets up this whole messed-up, dysfunctional relationship that puts the agency at a lower level then the client instead of a valued partnership.
I'm reminded of all this because today a colleague sent me this article in AdAge that talks to the client as to why asking for spec is a bad idea. Denari makes three great points:
Why it's a bad idea #1: Because a spec campaign is typically developed with only the most dangerous input: the preconceived notions, biases and personal experience of the team creating the work.
Why it's a bad idea #2: You'll get a strategy developed without your input. The best client-agency relationships are collaborative partnerships, where strategies are developed together.
Why it's a bad idea #3: You'll get really comfortable, safe work. The spec creative process creates an incentive to please you first and consumers second.
I'd kiss him on the lips for this article (but I'm not into that).
As marketers, what do we have to seel? Our ideas. And when we give them away, they become a commodity. And a devalued one at that. I don't care if it's the golden ticket to your fame. I don't care if it's a "really cool client." It's a waste. Of time. And. Money.
When a prospect who owned a world-wide chain of high-end hotels wanted us to do a complete spec identity for his business, I replied, "Okay. But our team needs to stay in at least three of your hotels in different countries before we decide if we'll do the spec work. If we like the experience, then we'll do it. If not, then we'll pass."
"But we don't give away nights at our hotels for free."
And then he paused and said, "Point taken."

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Spike Jones

Brains on Fire

Spike Jones hails from the Lone Star state, where they brainwash you at an early age to take pride in who you are and where you're from (and they sure got a hold of him). After graduating from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, he bounced around the country and finally landed in the Southeast over at the naming and identity company of Brains on Fire (

He began his career there as a copywriter, crafting compelling stories for national and international clients. And while Spike still enjoys wordsmithing, he is now involved on the creative strategy side of the business from insight to the creation of word of mouth movements to building regional and national identities for companies across many industries. Brands he’s helped strengthen include BMW, Rawlings Sporting Goods, Dagger Kayaks, Don Pablo’s Mexican Restaurants, Fiskars Brands, Yakima, Perception Kayaks and Rage Against the Haze (South Carolina’s youth-led anti-tobacco movement).

Spike has been a speaker at national and local events and is the main contributor to the Brains on Fire group blog (, which discusses current naming, identity and word of mouth issues and trends. It is also among the top read and resourced blogs in the marketing industry

When he’s not around his favorite people in the world (his fellow Brains on Fire-mates) or traveling around the country, you can find Spike out for a run flanked by his 100 lb. Chocolate lab, Mud.

Contact info:
Brains on Fire
148 River Street, Suite 100
Greenville, SC 29601

that fancy electronic mail: