Spec Work?

When I arrived at work this morning and turned on my computer I had an e-mail about an upcoming project. As I mentioned in my last entry, I am getting my feet wet with e-mail marketing and have become the go-to-guy on the subject. The e-mail started with a few basic technical questions that came up in conversation with a customer. It then said that as a means of convincing the customer to go with us for there e-newsletter, we (I) would come up with a design of what it would look like and help advise them on the content.

This sounds an awful lot like spec work to me. I am a member of AIGA and another regional advertising organization, both of whom, have a firm stance against spec work. To play devil's advocate however, this particular client is an existing customer of other materials and give us steady business. Does that make spec work like this "more acceptable?"

As the newest, youngest, designer at this company I don't necessarily have a lot of clout yet in the way the business is run so what is the best way to handle a situation like this. I am being told by a superior to do something that is unethical in the industry but in the same token, we have a "customers always right" attitude. Is it best to grin and bear or should I express my opinion on this particular issue? It is not really a common practice in my company but it is also not the very first time I've seen things like this happen.


Some random advice:

1) pick your battles
2) I've done work for existing clients to help them 'visualize' prior to project launch. It really depends on how much I like the client. ;o)
3) Spec work, while frowned upon, is certainly not unheard of. In large firms it's often relabeled/disguised as 'detailed pitch'.
4) You are getting a salary, right? So at least in your case, you, yourself, aren't doing any spec work. ;)

Thanks for the advice, you make some good points. It's hard to find the right balance between good customer service and letting yourself get walked on sometimes.