Advertising their own wares: Ad agency websites

Just how good are Britain's ad agencies at marketing their own products? Stefano Hatfield goes online to find out
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The Independent Online


GEEK REPORT: It is cleanly laid out, but you wade through treacle just to get the full client list, and it's far too much effort to ask visitors to download PDFs to view press cuttings. Clunky scroll bars everywhere and no lightness of touch.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE (there were so many to choose from, but this is from the "creative contract"): "I, ___________________, am excited by our ardent focus on the work and I will be a committed advocate and active practitioner of our new purpose, role and belief."

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: "Please call our Peter Cowie, Business Development Director, or Top Banana as he is better known."


GEEK REPORT: Attractive, faux hand-drawn graphic devices including rollover pop-ups on the contacts page. Clever and stylish without being too complicated.

WHAT, NO PLATITUDES? The entire "boasting bit", "links" and "case studies" have an attractive tone; gently humorous without trying too hard. It helps that AMV BBDO, as Britain's largest and highly awarded agency, has quite a story to tell.

CURIOUS MOMENT: I like to see managers' faces, but that's just me. Stranger is the paucity of creative work displayed. And, much as I love the Guinness "surfer" ad, wouldn't it be more honest to put that in a "past gems" section?


GEEK REPORT: A relatively simple site notable for its minimalism and use of extremely large type, which does not hide how few creative campaigns are actually featured.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: Consumer chemistry, client chemistry, communal chemistry.

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: The shot of the management team: three blokes from central casting - creative director, planning director and CEO - who are all cloning each other, plus chairman, Mark Roalfe, making it four blokes in trendy specs. The management team pose by a photo of a hot model in a bikini. Why not just put up a sign: "Clients wanted, women need not apply"?

Ogilvy & Mather -

GEEK REPORT: While it's true one gets a sense of Ogilvy as a proper grown-up marketing partner from this site, Lord, it's dull. Empty squares on the management line-up page make it look as though execs have been let go. Which would be refreshingly honest if only it were true.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: (a lot to choose from) "It's all about big ideas. Intelligent ideas. Ideas that spring from a deep understanding of consumer needs and behaviour."

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: Is the only thing that has happened to Ogilvy London really the appointment of Gary Leih as group chairman in March? There's buzz for you.


GEEK REPORT: Different versions of TBWA websites have driven me nuts for years. They are a good agency that does good work, so why not let us see it quickly and simply (and make it more up to date than here)? Much of this site reads clumsily, as if it were translated from French.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: A graphic of an arrow with the words "today", "path to a larger share of the future" and "tomorrow" along it.

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: The "cheeky film on the TBWA attitude" in which "Jim" gets shot gratuitously at breakfast but still goes in to work.

Saatchi & Saatchi -

GEEK REPORT: I accidentally went into this one through the global site which was cool, full of kitsch art direction, and worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts' ego. Strangely, I found myself reading his lengthy bio with fascination. At least Roberts' pontificating prevented there being space for UK CEO Lee Daly's pontificating.

IS IT A PLATITUDE? Or is there something really behind Roberts' "lovemarks" idea. Interesting.

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: Just after Roberts deplores cynicism, he names his two largest clients, Procter & Gamble and Toyota as two of his three most admired companies. The third? Saatchi & Saatchi.

Euro RSCG -

GEEK REPORT: Even in the "favourites bar" this comes up as "The Power of One", the agency's guiding philosophy of which it is clearly enamoured. It is actually an easy-to-navigate site, but the "one" stuff is deeply irritating. Try being a prospective client and reading this alongside, say, JWT and Ogilvy's sites. When you DO get to the UK site it is admirably informative, simple to use and navigate. But it kept crashing my Microsoft Explorer.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: "The power of one".

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: "Founded 2003". Talk about erasing Trotsky from the photographs!

St Luke's -

GEEK REPORT: A lot less pretentious than I expected, although the 2D Rubik's Cube graphic device and static interference soundtrack soon grated. The work was laid out in a very simple to navigate style. It was comprehensive and up to date - although it reminded me of how many clients this agency has lost.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: "The easiest way to lead people is to climb to the top of a hill. See what direction they are moving in already and then jump in front of them."

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: "Get off you battycrease" and other bits of advice to student creatives from the agency's West Indian cook.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty -

GEEK REPORT: The quickest click of all the sites; simplest to navigate, easiest to understand, with the who, what, when where and how all present. Largely pretension free, if verging towards the earnest. The only site where I ended up looking at and enjoying nearly all of the cleanly displayed work.

WHAT IS A PLATITUDE? BBH has always had principles and principals that have lasted. Reading about them did not feel like the normal agency BS.

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: "An organization without politics". I am a fan of BBH's, but have known the agency a long time...

Clemmow Hornby Inge -

GEEK REPORT: Good to be on a site that did not feel like all the others. It was colourful and inviting, infused with the personality of the agency. Nice touch to have all staff pictured, but strangely old-fashioned to only have blurbs about the three founders. Good to see such a wide range of client work represented - for once. Would win a plain English award.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: "The best way to get a big idea is to get a lot of ideas."

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: "The Gunn report's 19th most creatively awarded agency in the world." A joke? Or bizarre undersell from such a success story.

McCann-Erickson -

GEEK REPORT: A functional site that pretty much does what it says on the tin. Simple to navigate, it packs in a lot of information, but it is very cold both in art direction and colour, and in tone of voice. It's a bit like a law firm's website. It was a long wait downloading the ads compared to other sites.

WHAT IS A PLATITUDE? A statement with no meaning presented as if it was significant: like "truth well told" perhaps?

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: The "baby" commercial in their UPS campaign.

Cake Media -

GEEK REPORT: The reason I started this whole godforsaken review? I was sent an e-mail by Cake and I didn't know who they were. Being the diligent hack, I went online to find out. After the biggest hoo-hah of bells, whistles and spinning wheels, and endlessly watching a barcode scroll from left to right and back, I still have no clue. There is not enough reward for waiting.

OBLIGATORY PLATITUDE: "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..." oops, or someone left dummy Latin up on the Budweiser "Babies" page by accident.

EXCRUCIATING MOMENT: Being caught looking at the site when I was bored of this one!