It’s not uncommon; actually in some categories it’s very common, for businesses considering hiring an ad agency or marketing communications firm to ask for free spec work in the selection process. You simply ask three or five shops to propose a creative solution and provide tight layouts. Easy—the shops just take fifty to a hundred hours or so from existing workloads and apply it to a bet.
Our role should be more strategic than tactical. The mission an agency takes on for its clients is to affect behavior, not just increase awareness. The emphasis is not on ads, brochures, or direct mail-but on results. The marketing communications vehicles developed are not offered like products off of a shopping list. They are designed as part of a plan to take a potential customer step-by-step, over time, from ignorance of a company’s existence to advocacy of its products or services. This all requires a relationship built on a foundation of time together, not just pulling together spec work absent a critical account team member—the actual client.