Just over a week ago, a two-minute film called 'Say No To Spec' was released onto the web and has become a viral sensation. Originally created for Strategy Magazine's Agency of the Year competition in Canada, the film calls into question the common advertising industry practice of creating free speculative creative work to win clients in the bidding or new business pitch process.
The video, made by creative director Zak Mroueh, has garnered over 1.5 million views and, more importantly, has generated debate over the value of offering free work to prospective clients. Here it is:
The work has even struck a nerve with people not directly employed by the advertising business. Freelancers, contractors, photographers, journalists and a myriad of other professionals have rallied behind the cause using the video's Twitter hashtag #SayNoToSpec.
The clip features real shopkeepers and professionals being asked for 'spec work'. Their hilarious reactions clearly illustrate the absurdity of working for free. Beyond taking a humorous jab at the practice, Zak Mroueh, founder of the agency Zulu Alpha Kilo and the director of the film, says "There is a much better way to choose an agency partner. Spec work is an antiquated process that dates back to the Mad Men era. It's a cog in the increasingly bureaucratic procurement machine." Mroueh urges people to share comments and to head over to http://www.zulualphakilo.com/saynotospec to join the conversation. Within 24 hours of the film's release, he reacted with a thought piece further explaining why spec work is, in the end, costly to both clients and agencies. You can read it here.
The video's impact is certainly undeniable. Statistics show it was the number two trending clip on YouTube Canada last week and the third most shared content on the internet in a 24 hour period. It also attracted over one million views in four days and was top story of the day on Pinterest.
The firm Zulu Alpha Kilo, is based in Toronto, Ontario. Founded in July 2008 by Zak Mroueh, the agency has a full-time staff of 75 people. Its clients include Audi Canada, Bell Canada, Cineplex Entertainment, Interac Association, Labatt Breweries, ParticipACTION, Aequitas Innovations and Workopolis. Everyone in the company belongs to one company-wide creative group, and free-spirited, collaborative ideation is one of the agency's core principles.