Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Many Agencies Need To Rethink Their Websites

A candidate of mine who I had not heard from for a while asked me to take a look at the website of the agency he was working for.  He was very proud of it.  It is a smallish agency – maybe fifty people and his description of it on the phone sounded fabulous.  The agency was caring, successful, growing, had a nice list of clients and projects.  Just the kind of place I like to recruit for.  I was really disappointed with their website.

No client list.  A short statement of philosophy but lacking the fervor with which my friend described the agency. Some creative work was on line, but limited description.  The way they showed their print ads, especially those in reverse type, the body copy was unreadable.  The website had no listing of management (so of course there were no management bios).  And the contact information was limited, giving an “info” email address and a phone number, but no name to call.  I knew very little more about the agency than I did before I went to their website.

Sadly, this isn’t unusual.  It is true of agencies of all size.  It is unfortunate when the site doesn't give the simplest of information.
Most advertiser companies subscribe to the Redbook.  Historically, it was a great place to go to see background information – account lists, billings, principal officers and department heads, office addresses, etc.  Ironically, the Redbook (or its competitor published by AdWeek) should have been obviated by the web long ago.  But that hasn’t happened.  In fact, if you go to the web and look up most of the big agencies, the information that can be found in the Redbook simply isn’t there.  And when it is there, it is really hard to find.

But it is not just the big agencies. It is, in my opinion, most ad agencies.
My opinion is that most of these websites are over designed and difficult to navigate. And they are controlled by creative people where design tops function and practicality.
From my point of view, many of these sites are confusing.  Some have long, unnecessary (in my opinion) introductions which cannot be by-passed, or if the intros can be turned off, it is sometimes difficult to determine how to skip them.  Once in the site, it is difficult to tell where the information is. Often the most commonly sought information is hidden behind other data.  I have seen management listed under "philosophy" and clients listed under "Our work".   Pick your favorite agency and go on their web site.  If it is a network agency, try to isolate a particular office; in many cases it is impossible or, listed generally.  The very information which is in the Redbook is nowhere to be found.   
If I were an agency, I would consult with some of the search consultants to determine what should be on the site.  I cannot understand why all agency sites don’t list the simplest information:  Client lists (by location), billings, key players by location including HR (so many of these sites list jobs but do not give the name of the HR person; I understand why this is done, but it is almost rude.), and, finally, show samples of work - digital, print, broadcast.  Shockingly, many of them don’t show their web work at all.  I also believe that these sites should show awards and other recognitions they have received. If I were a prospective employee, this is the stuff I would want to read.  Ditto if I were a prospective client.

Almost every agency shows a section on PR and is proud to show all the press releases of the past year or so.  In many cases, this information is actually irrelevant, in my opinion.
The problem is that it appears that the website is handled by a creative committee while the Redbook information is handled by HR or PR.  The web info is often given to web designers and web strategists who are not connected to new business or human resources.  I have been told by several new business people that the simplest changes and updates of their web sites end up being discussed and considered by huge creative committees. 
I cannot help but think that these days the first place a new business prospect would go to for information about a prospective new agency is the web.  If they cannot isolate the particular information or office that they are looking for, it might possibly leave a lasting negative impression of the firm.
Just my thoughts on something most agencies don't want to face and deal with.

1 comment:

  1. I think that sadly, it's the old proverb about the shoemaker's children with shoes in their soles; agencies are so damn busy and overstretched, the last thing they have time to work on is their very own advertising.

    The truth is, it doesn't have to be a huge, expensive undertaking. One of my very favorite sites comes from Arnold which seems to use a basic Wordpress blog template. It's nimble, it's navigable, and it gets the job done.


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