Portfolio 101: Mastering Spec

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Ah, spec work. Short for speculative work, it’s the first step into the world of advertising. I remember my first spec ad was for a prison-learning program. Very deep stuff, I do not recommend. Learn from my mistakes. Here's what you need to know when creating your ads.  

BIG BRANDS DON'T NEED HELP

Got a cool idea for the iPhone 7? Great! Save it. A groundbreaking idea for McDonald's? Awesome! Nobody cares.

Big brands are big brands because they have the best agencies and best creatives working on it. Nike may be your dream to work on, but if you can make shoelaces look as bad-ass as the shoe, you’re well on your way.

 

Which brings us to our next point…

 

CHOOSE PARITY PRODUCTS

An ad for Marty McFly’s power-lacing shoes would undoubtedly be a dope piece. But when was the last time you saw a cool ad for rubber bands? White bread? Hemorrhoid cream? The “boring” stuff is your gold mine. Creating interesting and original ideas with a product with a dozen competitors will get you noticed.

 

UNSEXY IS THE NEW SEXY

My favorite medium is guerrilla. Many creatives appreciate the shock and awe of a well-done guerilla campaign. But can you bring that same element of surprise to direct mail or point of purchase? Explore some of the more humble, unsexy media and take your ideas to places most people won’t.

 

MAKE SOME FUN

I wish I had appreciated my spec ad days more. You have all the creative freedom in the world now – before tight budgets, creative briefs and client feedback. You can make anything happen in your spec work. Be careful not to get caught up in the execution that you ignore the idea.  Always lead with the idea, simple, clean ideas work best.