As a paper spec rep I worked with all types of creatives from art directors and production managers in big agencies, to designers in small to mid size studios, to students and freelancers venturing out on their own. A spec rep has one objective, to make sure their company gets the paper spec resulting in an order from the printer. It sounds easy enough but it’s not – especially if you’re the spec rep trying to justify the cost of your role within the company.
One reason is a lack of communication. Many spec reps never explain to their customer how the process works. They assume the designer knows to tell the printer to buy the paper from them. So when this doesn’t happen, eventually the rep stops calling on the designer. I have to say, I never experienced this. I figured if I was working with the designer on the job, supplying samples or securing special pricing, I should be clear about asking the designer to specify me on the print job. Most customers appreciate knowing this info up front – plus it usually opens the door for an honest conversation about the type of work they do and who they print with.
Now getting the printer to honor the spec, that’s a different story. Most printers have a preferred supplier they work with and unless they are told, will buy the paper from whomever they want. Even when they are supplied paper specs by the client, it’s a challenge to get some printers to honor them. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to work for months on a job with a designer, follow it all the way through only to have the printer break the spec. There are many reasons for this: price, availability, ignorance, ego – you name it, but the reality is the paper company and the spec rep didn’t get the order.
Finally, the overall decline of print plays a huge role in this as well. Let’s face it, companies aren’t producing hordes of printed marketing collateral these days. Sure there are some end-users who print a lot, trust me the creatives at these places are not lacking for reps of any kind – including spec reps. For most creatives, they just don’t print in the volume they used to, which makes it difficult for paper companies to justify the time and expense of providing this service – hence the death of the spec rep.
The good news is that when a client does decide to print they want to make it count. Creatives can actually choose paper based on aesthetics not price, all the more reason for staying up to date on paper resources. Just because paper companies have cut back on this type of service doesn’t mean creatives are SOL. While we have some products and services available for those who are interested, you don’t have to buy them in order to gain access – ANYONE can join our community (although if you’ are interested, they’re here and here). And because we’re founded on the belief that knowledge and resources should be accessible to all, we’re offering free consultative services – just drop us a note, we’re happy to help.
Oh and if you are lucky enough to still have a spec rep in your market, for the love of paper, spec them!