Use Spec Work To Grab The Spotlight

Instant Fame Awaits By Creating Ads For Big Brands

Haynes Baked Beans
Haynes Baked Beans. YouTube

If you are in the creative side of the advertising industry (and even if you’re not), spec work is a fantastic way to get yourself noticed.

Now, a quick Google search defines spec work as:

“Speculative work (or free pitching) is any job for which the client expects to see examples or a finished piece of design before agreeing to pay a fee or compensation.”

This is accurate, but also a limited picture of what spec work can be.

You don’t have to create spec work for a current client, or future client, in the hopes of being paid or employed at a later date. You can be smarter than that.

Spec work is a great way to showcase your talents, and the many talents of those in your agency (if you have one). And if you pick the right subject, and do it well, the work could become an Internet sensation, garnering thousands of dollars in free publicity for you.

So that free work you did, if done well, could not only get you fame and glory, but a new job, or several new clients. All you need to do is pick the right brand, the right subject matter, and knock it out of the park.

Examples Of Spec Work That Went Viral

Over the last few years, there have been some shining examples of spec work that became hugely popular, or viral, on the Internet. In fact, the ads were so well done that many people credited them to the actual brand featured in the ad.


Share The Rainbow (NSFW) – Skittles (Cousins)

Let’s make one thing clear; although there is no nudity in the ad, its subject matter is obviously NSFW. So, make sure you know that before clicking on this link to the AdWeek article promoting this “banned” ad.

However, the very fact that it is so bizarre, sexually provocative, and magnificently filmed (this looks like a real ad) is what makes it a great piece of spec work.

The shop responsible, Cousins, has other examples of this kind of fun available on their site. And they definitely got a lot of press from that over-the-top piece of work.

Moon Monster – Haynes Bakes Beans (Cinesite VFX)

This ad never fails to get a laugh, and has received millions of views. It has also been the subject of many articles, and brought the spotlight to Cinesite VFX and Comic Animations. Sure, the agency could have thrown a reel out there, but that would not have got the attention this ad received. A great piece of spec work.

Gay Marriage – Tide-To-Go (Tiny Giant)

Perhaps something good can come from the recent Kim Davis debacle. Studio Tiny Giant put this piece of spec work together for Tide-To-Go pens, and used the topical subject of gay marriage to ad a twist few were expecting. A great example of how the combination of the right subject matter with the right brand can really launch your spec work into the spotlight.

Thanksgiving – Xbox (Bradley King)

The scenario is fairly typical. A Thanksgiving dinner, shot on a home camcorder (this was done back in 2006), with the usual suspects around the table. That includes the weird uncle with the hook hand. When he gets a little too abrasive, the girl at the table pulls out a light saber and that hook hand comes clean off.

Not only did Bradley King tap in wonderfully to the Star Wars phenomenon, but by filming it home-video style, he added a sense of reality that made the unveiling really pop. 


Finally...a Word of Warning

There are a lot of great people in advertising. But, there are also some that will do anything to save a bit of money, and exploit the good nature of people who genuinely want to make something good. You may be approached to do something "on spec," and that basically means:

"Do this work for free, you'll get great exposure, and next time we'll pay you."

There probably won't be a next time. Or if there is, guess did it free once, you can do it for free, or very little money, again. So just remember, creating spec work for yourself, for a client that is either real or fictional, is an excellent way to practice your skills and get noticed.

Doing spec work for someone else...that can only lead to misery.