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Web Design: Never Let an Ad Agency Near Your Website

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The average advertising agency fundamentally doesn’t get the Web. Saatchi & Saatchi, BBDO Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy are great advertising agencies. When it comes to managing their own websites, however, they are rank amateurs. They bring their print and TV thinking to the Web with embarrassing results.

I give workshops on content management and web design all over the world. Whenever I talk about the need for simple, clean web design, there is nearly always someone in the audience who raises an objection. I am informed that I don’t understand branding.

Branding. I don’t know how many times branding has been used as an excuse for awful web design. What’s the biggest global brand that has emerged in the last five years? Google. And it’s because of its multicolored logo? Or perhaps because it’s a great search engine?

Branding on the Web is about successful task completion, not fancy images, or heaven forbid, Flash. I ask my audiences: “What do you do when you see a Flash intro?” Almost in unison, they chant: “Skip Intro!” (Why, there’s even a website called skipintro.com.) What is a Flash intro except a fourth rate TV ad by someone who knows that they will never get the chance to do a real TV ad?

Back to these wonderful advertising agencies. What’s the most difficult thing to find out when you arrive at their websites? What exactly it is they do. If you visit Saatchi & Saatchi, for example, you will be told that:

  • Ideas are the currency of the future
  • They solve problems
  • They create opportunities
  • They entertain
  • They break down barriers
  • They enrich lives
  • Is this a division of the United Nations? Aren’t we all in the business of ideas? If ideas get turned into ads, aren’t those ads supposed to sell products, as well as enriching lives and solving world hunger?

    Ogilvy.com is not the worst site. It delivers reasonably clear information (even if it has a brochure design for its homepage). It talks about the need to guide “actions, both big and small, that deliver on that brand promise.” However, it makes an elementary mistake by not creating links that are calls to action at the end of each piece of its content.

    BBDO Worldwide has a corny Flash intro and corny navigation made up of pencils. (Creative people use pencils.) But what is hilarious is that if you click on the Our Work’ link you get a disclaimer, where “BBDO categorically forbids ” A disclaimer! That’s so 1997.

    Which is better than J. Walter Thompson, which is so 1995. Consider this beauty from the homepage: “Welcome to the JWT site, your introduction to who we are and what we believe. Use the green navigation bar to find your way around, or read the latest JWT news below.” Someone tell them that the welcome message died out with the dinosaurs.

    Also, hypertext was invented to make text active. Making a statement such as: “Use the green navigation bar to find your way around” is both redundant and illustrative of print thinking.

    This is just a small sample of the truly amateur things that these ad agencies are doing. But what is truly scary is that they get paid to advise other companies on developing web strategies.

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    For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern http://www.gerrymcgovern.com

    Subscribe to his New Thinking Newsletter: subscribe@gerrymcgovern.mailer1.net

    Web Design: Never Let an Ad Agency Near Your Website
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