AntiSpec & sons of pitches


#AntiSpec is a campaign launched earlier this summer that seeks to out those who put out calls for free logos. They had a high profile casualty in the maiden campaign when Aol owned Huffington Post sought to ‘invite’ submissions for a new divisional identity “in exchange for exposure”. Hmm. We wholeheartedly support the Antispec cause, but this led us ponder a wider picture, namely to pitch or not to pitch…

In times of economic downturn the debate rages on as ferocious as ever. For every agency who decides to no longer pitch without renumeration, there are twenty other one and two-man-bands popping up with a bouncy website, looking to nibble on any scraps they can get. No matter what you do it will always be the same, self fulfilling prophecy – we’ve all gotta start somewhere, right?

Right. But there is a disease that the industry is riddled with which is fed by the aforementioned circle of life. The disease is value. Or more specifically, percieved value. Take branding as a prime example – can you argue that the outcome is tangible and the value is into the input; hours of research, years of experience, teams of opinions and countless revisions – just to put a presentation in front of the client. And let’s face it, unless you’re of the ilk of Wolff Olins, Landor, Futurebrand or Pentagram, (which most of us are not), you’re pretty much up against preconceived prejudices that you just can’t account for. My wife doesn’t like purple. God help me.

It’s not me, it’s you.
So, do we blame the clients for not valuing the process, the craft, the long-term vision we as designers peddle? Or do we blame ourselves for not enforcing these things as tangible, valuable products? Or do we just accept this is just part of an industry in which we give everything away for free in an attempt to seduce a prospective client?

Many smaller agencies and freelancers rely on winning these Tenders and so must decide if they can afford the spent time cracking the brief instead of chasing paid work. If they choose to go for broke can they afford the time to do themselves justice and produce winning and fully explored outcomes? Briefs often stipulate three+ routes minimum for a client to muse over, often viewed unattended and unsteered. Three+ routes? That’s a lot of work without guarantee of silver crossing palm. I think that’s just what exasperates most of all – those three+ ‘options’ that are demanded in the pitch brief. They’re what devalue the input and resolution.

Smaller agencies need to get their foot in the door in order to grow their business and their portfolio so often feel pressured or even obliged to go for broke and pitch. Classic rock/hard place chicken/egg scenario.

So just don’t free pitch?
So, in a time where clients, particularly in the public sector (and rightly so) are looking for increased value for money, buyers are ever more answerable for each of their decisions. The sorry truth is that unless we educate we’ll find ourselves the casualty of feeding our competitors by abstaining from the free pitch practice. Time is money. It’s lose-lose.

Furthermore, how are you expected to build relationships this way? It’s strong relationships that breed stronger understanding of needs that birth robust and valid solutions.

So what’s the solution? I’ll continue to whack my head against my desk everytime I read a lazy, half-baked brief from marketing ‘managers’ who barely understand their own ill-conceived whim themselves and you, well continue doing what you’re doing. Or start a revolution. Whatever.

Everyone has an opinion on this, mine is simply based on personal experience. Please share your comments and rants below, I’m really keen to hear what you have to say. If you believe in the cause, please add your face to the AntiSpec campaign and spread the word.