In last month’s Campaign Dan O’Brien said Websites must be less insular. Mairi Clark compiles responses

In last month’s Campaign Dan O’Brien said Websites must be less insular.

Mairi Clark compiles responses

Are British Websites too insular?

What use is the Vauxhall Website outside the UK? Whatever happens to the

global information superhighway, the cars on real highways will remain

local commodities. But if you are selling something, like information or

software, that can be distributed as bits, then you can expand your

market on the Web. Even if your business model is advertising-driven,

there is no reason why it should not be international. The last

statistics produced for the Internet backbone before the US government

stopped funding it a year ago showed that while France put in twice as

many bits as it took out, Britain served half as many bits into the

backbone as it requested; so Britain had a deficit in the balance of

trade in bits on the Internet. This is disgraceful given the advantages,

including our use of English, that Britain has in this global free

market. British Websites must look outwards.

Matthew Doull, Wired magazine

Sites don’t have to be global any more. Servers can recognise where you

are and so local sites can be delivered to a relevant audience. A

British company may not want or need to go global. Many US global

corporate sites are not appropriate, tonally or creatively, for a UK or

European audience. The UK is now competing on intellect, imagination and

creativity - in these categories the UK is among the world’s leaders.

Jane Ostler, Ogilvy and Mather

Why should a UK Website be expected to appeal to a worldwide audience

just because there is the potential to do so? Although the trend is

towards media globalisation, cultural interests are still restrained by

borders, and content must appeal to the chosen market. In developing a

successful Internet presence, information must be relevant and useful.

This doesn’t have to be limited to UK tastes, but the UK sites could be

less interesting if they came from a global perspective. Marketers seem

to be developing ‘supersites’ offering a single address, but revising

the message entirely for individual countries. This is probably the way

to avoid insularity, if it matters!

Neil Miller, DNA Communications

Parochialism, of course, is what the Internet is all about. It’s not a

global medium, it’s a personal medium. It’s about conversation, dialogue

and intimacy - micro-targets not mass markets. So Websites should be

parochial - in that they should address directly and exclusively the

interests of their chosen constituency. They should not seek to be

global merely because they can. That’s why sites like Yell work -

they’re specific to life in the UK. It’s all very cool to browse the

dataspace of Palo Alto but I want to know what’s on at the Premier in

Peckham. The Web isn’t going to be a credible medium until it stops

being cool and starts being useful - and if that means being parochial

and, dare I say it, local, then so be it.

Russell Davies, Leo Burnett russell_davies@london.burnett. com

Although, the Web is arguably the first truly global medium, that

doesn’t mean we have to suffer some bland mid-Atlantic common

denominator. More likely we’ll have a cacophony of local colour. The

marketing function is traditionally split along geographical lines. So

it’s natural for a brand manager to want a Website to enhance the local

bottom line. The success of the few truly global brands relies on the

export of US culture. But a new breed of global brands is emerging where

the product is more or less the same worldwide, but the brand

positioning is local and specific. The global village is the spice of

life - as cosmopolitan as New York or London. Before we know it, our

insular UK Websites will have Scottish, Yorkshire and London flavours,

delivered seamlessly to those audiences because the Internet server

knows who’s talking to it. At that point, despised insularity becomes

the coveted goal of precise targeting.

Paul Syrysko, Stream