OPINION: Agencies shouldn’t put too much faith in Websites, yet

Nick Rosen argues that networks must be wary of giving control of Websites to agencies which may lack the experience to produce a successful new-media project

Nick Rosen argues that networks must be wary of giving control of

Websites to agencies which may lack the experience to produce a

successful new-media project

It’s only a matter of time before client companies realise their

agencies are taking them for a multimedia ride. The big networks should

stay out of new media, at least for a couple of years.

The ‘old media’ agencies are making themselves look out of touch by

misunderstanding the medium, and they are stifling the new market by

charging fees commensurate with fat-cat corporate budgets rather than

low-price experiments - which these projects need to be.

Agencies should be experimenting with their own Websites, not their

clients’. Or perhaps they shouldn’t be experimenting at all. Remember

the ill-fated TV studios launched a few years ago by a series of

agencies? Where are they now?

The same will happen to the mushrooming new-media divisions at Saatchi

and Saatchi, Ogilvy and Mather, Lowe Howard-Spink, Bates Dorland, Euro

RSCG or CIA (which isn’t even an agency and has displayed no creative

talent in its multimedia work).

Most new-media units work out of a room the size of the chairman’s

jacuzzi. But they hold their meetings in the boardroom and pay their

share of the overheads in return - costs that get passed back to the

client as a high percentage of the low budgets.

Their Websites are what you would expect from a bunch of pleasant young

people who have not been doing it very long. The graphics tend to be

crude and the programming is unsophisticated.

I hope that the Gleneagles site (by Star Interactive) was some kind of

free experiment or favour to a valued hostelry. Likewise, Lowes’ Lloyds

Bank site has the unmistakable air of ‘My first Web page’. (Note to

Lowes: the link from your own boastful home page to the Lloyds site

didn’t work both of the times I tried to access it.)

The dirty little secret of the Internet and CD-Rom is that the audiences

are small. Therefore the budgets have to be small - at least until the

Net becomes a mass-market phenomenon in 1997.

The trend may be towards the centralisation of accounts, but handing

your Website to an agency is a bit like running a little test marketing

campaign in New York, London and Paris.

Let the agency handle the client’s Internet strategy. Let the account

planning departments prepare briefs for the multimedia developers. But

don’t let an agency copywriter anywhere near a Website until he or she

has at least produced one excellent site for the agency showreel.

The Internet is about sponsored publishing. A Website needs to be seen

as the equivalent of a campaign, not be equated with a single ad. Just

as a campaign develops, so must a Website and each piece of content

needs to receive individual publicity and be regularly updated.

This isn’t what agencies are best at but it is part of a new-media

agency’s stock-in-trade. Go a step further and suggest automated

publicity or automated updating to the average account director and he

won’t have a clue what you’re on about.

I could name one or two notorious examples of executives jetting around

the world right now for unnecessary meetings (never heard of e-mail,

guys?) to produce Websites where the designers’ fees will be less than

the air fares. Or, in some cases, not produce Websites.

The dirty little secret of account executives is that it’s in their

nature to promise next year’s technology today. Take the Guinness

Website which was announced six months before it was launched. Is it

‘the most interactive ever’? I don’t think so. Most consumers would

prefer to interact with their fridge or their sofa.


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