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Oct 02, 2006
Blog Post

Ad Agencies -- How to Make Your Web Site Appeal to Type A Executives (Despite the Flash)

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

Most ad agency Web sites make me absolutely nuts as a visitor. Instead of giving me quick, easy navigation to whatever I want to know, they just can't resist showing off how creative they are.

And in their outside-the-box, wow-aren't-we-unique, so-
revolutionary way, most end up looking pretty much the same -- much like teens who dress as punks or goths. Generally, this means strong background colors such as black or red instead of white, copy in reverse type (or ultra-fashionable tiny pale gray type) and lots of Flash-based content.

I'm especially annoyed by having to scroll over nav buttons (or in some cases cutesy graphics) to make navigation completely visible. I don't have time to horse around on your site. I'm looking for something quite precise and I want it now, now, now.

Probably part of this is because I'm a Type A personality. And an overcaffeinated one at that.

Which is why I was utterly charmed by the home page for Barkley Evergreen & Partners (BEAP), which is the largest employee-owned ad agency in the US. Yes, they had that darned Flash stuff -- in this case, you mouse over navigation tabs to see people flopping about on stuffed chairs. ... I'm not sure of the point but I'm sure it's extremely creative in an agency sort of way.

However, they also went outside the agency-site-box and added an enormously compelling click button on their home page just for people like me. It reads:

"If you're a type A person, click here before you waste any more precious time."

When you click, up pops a one-page factoid sheet. Love it, love it, love it!

I asked Erica Wren, BEAP's Marketing & PR Manager, how many
visitors click on this button. Turns out, the button has been clicked 10,763 times in the past 12 months (including twice by me.) That equals 15% of the home page's traffic in the same time period.

Now, the rule of thumb in site design is: every major page should have obvious click link/navigation for every type of persona who is at least 10% of your average visitor population. Some people want lots of lots of information, some people want to play with rich media and some of us want to cut to the chase already. Your site must please all of them pretty much instantly and simultaneously.

OK, that's oversimplified, but you get the picture.

Based on that rule, my personal award for agency home page of this year goes to BEAP. But it may not be around for long. Erica says a redesign will launch Oct. 31st. So here are two links:

BEAP home page -- original version until Oct. 31, 2006:

Canned version -- we've posted screenshots here so you can see it no matter when you happen to read this blog:

By the way, do you think MarketingSherpa should help uplift the state of the ad agency Web site world by holding awards? Lemme know by posting comments on this blog and we'll act on your suggestions.

See Also:

Comments about this Blog Entry

Oct 02, 2006 - michaela of iconcertina says:
No! Enough trade magazines allow for agencies to wallow in self appreciation!

Oct 02, 2006 - Bill Black of Black Horse Productions says:
I think that'd be GREAT idea! So often, we creative types tend to overdo the whole "creative" thing... The old adage "Just because you can doesn't mean you SHOULD..." comes to mind. Let's show off for the RIGHT reasons!

Oct 02, 2006 - Wes Womack of Ingenio Inc says:
I agree that agencies should be held accountable for the quality of their websites. Awards are a clever way to do that, and one that speaks the language of agencies. The methodology by which you measure "agency", and the criteria for judgement, could help to qualify agencies in a new, unique way. I have never appreciated nor sided with the "cobbler's shoes" excuse for an agency site. If you can do it right, start at home.

Oct 02, 2006 - Stacy Williams of Prominent Placement says:
Maybe if MarketingSherpa gave out awards for good ad agency sites, it would help prevent the overcreative Flash-driven fluff that you describe. As a search marketer, I can't tell you how many ad agencies have come to me wanting me to optimize their website. When I tell them they'll have to get rid of the Flash and build a regular, HTML site (Flash elements embedded in HTML are ok), I never hear from them again. Has happened over and over again. I guess they'd rather be "cool" than visible on the web.

Oct 02, 2006 - John Vrba of US International media says:
Excellent idea for ad agency site contest. But divide into multiple-office agencies and independent one-location shops. There are a lot of sharp, smaller groups turning out good work.

Oct 02, 2006 - Tom Butlin of Trends Publishing says:
Their website is a great idea, but does not work on a Mac. So close and yet so far

Oct 02, 2006 - Ian McKee of Vocanic says:
The awards idea is great - but lets make sure we have real type A people judging it! I vote for Anne as chief judge!

Oct 04, 2006 - Tony Kadysewski of Trion Industries, Inc. says:
Yes. Awards for well-crafted and communicative work as opposed to purely creative would reward appropriate agencies and help us all learn from top notch work. But you need BOTH types of awards. The agency should be tugging on the leash trying to create breakthrough concepts, while the client must be a sea-anchor and hold them in check so as not outpace our markets, type A executives and Luddite customers.

Oct 06, 2006 - Joel Cohen of says:
Unfortunately, most ad agencies are in denial about Internet Marketing for themselves and their clients. The real problem is that the development of ad agency web sites has been a creative function (win the awards) versus a marketing function so when one agency does Flash on their web site, all the other creative gurus think that's the way it should be. Every wonder why 99% of agencies' web sites aren't in the top 10 of Google? Agencies need to get "disruptive."

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