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.