There seems to be a bit of a worrying trend going on at the moment with clients logging on to creative speculative websites where literally thousands of designers make a bid for your work. What's wrong with that? I hear you say, wont I get loads of options for little or no cost? This is the hook with speculative design work but sadly this is not the reality. Have you ever heard the expression 'If you pay peanuts you get monkeys'? Here are some of the major problems with contracting work in this way:
A lot of the 'designers' pitching for work in this way are self taught and have no formal training in design. This can lead to technical issues with file types, colour systems, rendering and printing. There are also more slippery issues such as a lack of knowledge about cultural implications of design, no knowledge of copyright issues or font and image rights and a general lack of responsibility.
A lot of applicants are from developing countries where what seems a little can mean a lot. Hence you leave yourself open to exploiting the vulnerable. There can also be a lot of problems with communication.
■ No respect
Probably the worst offender is having no respect for the design profession itself and preferring to cut corners—never mind the detailed brief, the exhaustive research, the extensive design process and all the other aspects of being a design professional.
For a compelling argument against the creative pitch system from a clients perspective let's take a look at Tom Foulkes, Marketing Director of Peter Brett Associates about how he buys design expertise.
Tom has a compelling argument against the value of speculative creative work. Here's the advice he'd give to other clients.
Selecting and appointing a new design partner is one of the most important elements of what we do.
To be effective, relationships with designers should be built for the long term. We need to be sure that the partnership will work and not just for us as the client but also for the designer/design agency.
We focus on five key areas to help us make this judgment - The Five C's:
This differs to the traditional methodology for selecting a new design partner, which unfortunately more commonly sees clients ask suppliers to produce creative work as evidence of their ability to undertake the work; the Creative Pitch as it has become known. We believe this method leads to poor decisions and may undermine the commercial strength of our organisation. Fundamentally, we believe the creative pitch is commercially toxic and is a tradition the marketing profession can do without. Commercially toxic may sound a little over the top but here are some of the potential hidden consequences of the creative pitch that can have a negative impact on a business, post decision:
- The creative will be naïve and hastily pulled together. It will be based on a very narrow understanding of you, your market and the true nature of what is required. Creative like this is dangerous to share within a business as it can lead to commercial decisions being made on the basis of taste rather than commercial sense. This ultimately may lead to your own commercial failure
- It isn't free creative, the cost of producing this work will be recovered through the subsequent work you do, the designer/design agency will likely resent giving their work away for free and this dysfunction will undermine and ultimately destroy your commercial partnership. A failure in such a vital strategic relationship may lead to your own commercial failure.
- The quality of any creative produced will only reflect the amount of time the designer has spent on the pitch. In any successful design agency this will not be a great amount of time, unless the agency is struggling to win work. This will lead to poor decision making as it is likely that you appoint a poor agency with lots of time to spend on your pitch over the strongest agency who was busy with fee paying work in the lead up to the pitch. Ultimately this will affect your competitiveness and may lead to your own commercial failure.