Should Advertising Agencies Provide Free Spec Work?

People in other industries don’t provide their would-be clients with “spec work” for free. That would be asinine. So, why do advertising agencies continue to do it?

It’s not a new question. (This Adweek story from August was just the latest assessment of a practice that goes back decades.) But Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo really illustrates just how ludicrous it is—in the great video below, in which a guy approaches real men and women (not actors) in other businesses and asks them to provide him with a product or service for free, to see if he likes it before committing to more.


Zulu made the video for Strategy magazine’s annual Agency of the Year event on Wednesday night, where a number of agencies presented comic videos. But despite the humorous approach, the topic is a serious one for Zulu.

The shop took part in spec pitches during its first two years of operation, but founder and CCO Zak Mroueh abruptly stopped doing so. “We haven’t done a pitch that requires spec creative in five years,” he told Adweek this year. “This approach allows us to support our clients’ brands rather than using the resources our clients pay for to gain new business.”

Now, it wants other agencies to follow its lead. “It’s time we all said no to spec,” says the on-screen copy at the end of the new video.

Could it be that easy?

Also, here is a list of winning agencies from Strategy’s AOY event.

Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo
Creative Director: Zak Mroueh
Art Director: Guilherme Bermejo
Writer: Nick Doerr
Agency Producer: Tara Handley
Production House: Zulubot
Director: Zak Mroueh
Producers: Tara Handley, Daniel Kaplan
Director of Photography: Albert Huh
Casting Director: Shasta Lutz
Post, Editing, Music Company: Zulubot
Editor: Mike Headford
Colorist, Transfer: Roslyn Di Sisto
Producer: Tara Handley
Engineer: Stephen Stepanic



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