INTERACTIVE: BEHIND THE HYPE/The future of Websites; New generation of Web designers think lateral to succeed

By STEVE SHIPSIDE,, Friday, 09 August 1996 12:00AM

Don’t get a Website just to put your name on the Net. Sites must now deliver or die, Steve Shipside says

Don’t get a Website just to put your name on the Net. Sites must now

deliver or die, Steve Shipside says

Just a year ago you were ahead of the game if you could boast a Website

of any description. A Web address flashed on screen at the end of a TV

ad was the hallmark of hip, a shorthand way of saying you were at the

cutting edge of all things cyber.

Unfortunately, in most cases, this was an elaborate media bluff, and one

that was soon exposed. As consumers with Net access grew, a lot of

first-generation sites were visited and found wanting. Simply having a

Web address and a half-page brochure for a home page, has proved

counterproductive. Once consumers have visited a site and found it

boring, you may never get them back again.

Compare the vision of the Internet in the television ad for the Fiat

Bravo/Brava with the shoddy reality of the Fiat Website and you get an

idea of the disappointments suffered by early users.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The standard corporate site is

being killed off by apathy and disillusion, but its place is being taken

by a new species.

‘There have been four generations of corporate Websites,’ says Tom

Loosemore, the editor of the ‘SpaceHopper’ Web section of the magazine,

Wired UK. ‘The first was brochureware, which evolved into brochureware

with e-mail. Then people found they couldn’t support that, and it was

having a negative effect on customer support. The third step was to make

the process more interactive, for example, the Alliance and Leicester’s

online mortgage-quote service.

‘Now we’ve moved on to the likes of the British Midland Website, where

you can book seats online. When they start doing seat auctions on the

Web, we’ll be looking at both the true fourth- generation site, and also

a great new marketing opportunity.’

That British Midland site, which was designed by Glasspage in Leicester,

hooks up to a software booking engine from Novus. ‘It takes you through

the booking process, then to payment on screen using credit card details

(encrypted) before giving a booking reference online,’ Caroline Edwards-

Clarke, the marketing manager of Novus, explains.

Glasspage is now working with British Midland’s agency, Faulds

Advertising, to incorporate material from its print campaigns. A number

of other airlines have expressed interest in the service, and it could


‘Most companies have yet to internalise the idea of communicating with

their customers,’ Jonathan Bulkeley, the managing director of the online

service provider, AOL UK, comments.

‘I like services such as Federal Express, where I can track my parcels

globally, or American Express, where I can check my balance and order

cards or travellers’ cheques. To me that’s not advertising, it’s a

service, and it’s more efficient than using the phone.’

The joy of such ‘service sites’ is that people return over and over for

the functionality, affording an opportunity to expose them to branding,

special offers, and new services. Few people, once they are told about

the site, can resist the temptation to repeatedly log on to Fedex in

order to watch the progress of a package they’ve sent.

This is fine if your clients happen to be in industries with ticketing

or logistical opportunities, but how can you get people to willingly re-

visit a site if the product is cosmetics, food or clothing?

The brochureware approach has a limited shelf life. Levi’s has a great

site with nice graphics, some history of jeans, and downloadable video

files of the more popular TV campaigns. Nonetheless, once you’ve see the

show you’re unlikely to return.

In fashion and consumer branding, the answer for the future, it would

seem, is lateral thinking. In the US, Pepsi has moved away from

promoting its own Website. Instead it runs TV ads promoting a music

Website. That site is, of course, subtly branded, but the point is that

people don’t go there to see a Pepsi site, they go, time and again, for

the music.

Of course anything they can do, we can do better, and a good examples of

this approach is the Vladivar Vodka Good Clean Fun site, a mildly

surreal world of fun and games.

The brainchild of Vladivar’s PR company, Freud Communications, the site

was constructed by Freud’s new-media joint venture with Abbott Mead

Vickers and the House of Blue, Traffic Interactive.

Good Clean Fun has already distinguished itself by playing host to a

Supergrass concert online, and last month it transmitted live from the

Phoenix Festival.

‘Our priority is providing content,’ Stuart Watkins, the project manager

at Traffic, explains. ‘On TV there are loads of shows you can buy space

between, but it’s costly. On the Net, space is cheap, but it’s hard to

find content to fit your brand. If you want people to see your branding,

you have to provide things to attract them.’

It’s perhaps not surprising that some of Traffic’s staff came from

Planet 24, the production company responsible for the Big Breakfast TV

show. ‘That broadcasting angle is something that everyone is going to

have to do,’ Watkins adds. The Web brochure is being replaced by the Web

infomercial, or sponsored entertainment.

It’s a feature of the Net that it takes only a handful of companies to

adopt a new approach, and the stakes are raised for everyone - which

means that it’s time to bin the brochureware, and start thinking about

the new meaning of ‘computer programming’.

This article was first published on


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