The last time I was asked to do Private Surf was around three years
ago. At the time, I was still running Lowe Digital and still personally
suffering the torment known as website production. Happily, I have since
escaped to the altogether more attractive pastures of online
advertising, the media bit.
I say this so you’ll know that I can entirely sympathise with the
struggle I’m sure this month’s pick of websites has been through. I’m
sure that the last thing they need is some twat spouting off about how
he would have done it all differently or how they almost got it right.
But here goes, anyway.
My first problem at the Diesel online store was getting in. ’Please feel
free to come inside and browse our offerings,’ it said to me, in a very
un-Diesel tone of voice. However, I had first to choose between the
Shockwave front door and the standard one. Presumably, the former would
give me a superior shopping experience, but I never actually found out.
Apparently, I don’t have the latest version of Shockwave, so I would
have to download it. I don’t think so.
I decided to chance it through the standard entry. Pants. That’s what I
found. And tops, jackets, fragrances and underwear. The site functions
perfectly well as an online mail-order catalogue without giving too much
of the edgy feel of the brand. I’m not quite sure where the website sits
in the overall marketing mix and I don’t think Diesel knows either.
Which leads me nicely on to Red Bull.
I really thought all drinks brands had got the message by now. Having
your own website is pretty much a waste of money. The punters are not
interested in the fact that you sponsor extreme sports. It’s the extreme
sport itself they’re interested in, so go and spend that budget on
sponsoring or hijacking existing extreme sports sites.
Unless offering free samples, drinks sites are just a sign of a
mis-spent ad budget. They can even do more harm than good. If you don’t
believe me, check out this admission from the Red Bull page, designed to
allay our fears on apparent malicious rumours: ’Red Bull is won (sic)
from bulls’ testicles. Fact: taurine is an amino acid which is found in
the human body. It is produced synthetically for Red Bull.’ There. I’m
sure we all feel better about the brand now.
So, let’s talk about something actually quite exciting. Crunch, the
recently launched music download site, is pioneering the future of music
Tracks can be downloaded in MP3 format at 99p a throw and then (here’s
the temporary catch) played back on your personal MP3 player. The thing
is, players are a bit hard to get hold of just now, but they will be
more readily on sale by the summer.
MP3 is the format that has got the music industry choking on its coke as
it faces a world where artists can cut out the big record labels and
still achieve global distribution. Crunch currently has a trance bias
but will increasingly feature tracks for more mainstream tastes.
And talking of firsts, Barclays thinks it’s got one. The ’first
financial services site to feature interactive screens which enable
customers to create a savings account portfolio tailored to meet their
needs’. What came first, Barclays or Egg? Actually, neither. Take a look
at the John Hancock site from the US. Offering visitors the chance to
personalise a selection of products is a minimum now and UK companies
need to learn that. Sorry if this sounds harsh on Barclays, but they
turned me down for an overdraft 15 years ago and this is my chance to
I have no such score to settle with J. Walter Thompson. The last site
I’ve been asked to review is a well-designed, fresh looking affair that
positively enhances the agency’s brand. There’s nothing too dramatic
here and I think the site is all the better for that. No gratuitous use
of Shockwave, no modem-jamming movie downloads and no cheesy photos of
senior management - at least, none I could easily find. Simple is best
and long may it remain so. Perhaps ad agencies really are best equipped
to take clients into the new digital age after all.