As a group, ad agencies and design firms have among the worst web sites of any category of company. I realize that’s a gross generalization but it is true much more often than not. I know because I visit a lot of agency web sites in search of resources for my clients.
The most egregious missed opportunity: The number one thing a prospective client wants to see at an agency’s web site is examples of their work. Yet, way too often the portfolio is unorganized and hard to view. Check out Publicis’ web site to see just one example — what I think of as the “filmstrip approach.” You have to scroll sequentially through the myriad panels of individual images, most of which do not make sense out of context. Yes, you can click on any frame to see more but the individual images don’t tell you enough to even know who the client is most of the time.
The problem, I’ve concluded, is that when agencies develop their own web sites there is one essential piece of the equation that’s missing – the client. The client is the one who insists that the creative work serve a purpose, the one who measures each creative concept against an articulated strategy. What I too often see in these sites is creativity run amok, cleverness for its own sake that makes me think less of the agency instead of more, even from agencies that otherwise do great work.
I used to use a creative firm’s web site as a litmus test for the quality of their work, but I’ve abandoned that notion because I’ve found there isn’t a strong correlation. And I’ve resisted the temptation to link to many of these sites for the exact reason that I do work or will work with lots of these folks. What I do, is point out to my clients that they play as critical a role in creative work as their agencies do. To get great work, you need both.