Looking at Agency Websites

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We spend a lot of time looking at agency websites: advertising agencies, integrated agencies, media buyers and planners, experiential, digital and design agencies.

There’s a lot of them out there, although their websites almost seem to have settled into the same – or similar – design: a landing page, which you navigate either by scrolling down or by clicking on that little three line menu icon in the top right corner (or if you want to be really radical the top left.) But the purpose of this blog isn’t to criticise the creative agency world for apparently falling into the trap of virtually identical websites, although we’d ask you to look at a few and then try and remember who was who afterwards.

No, what we wanted to talk about was a lot of marketing agencies inability to make it clear what they actually do. Sometimes the landing page has a message on it that reads something like ‘we’re climbing the beanstalk of creativity to steal the Giants big ideas because we’ve swapped the cow of mediocrity for the magic beans of strategy.’ Or you click on the ‘About’ button and a similar message pops up. So, you find yourself asking ‘so what do you actually do?’

You flick to the ‘Work’ pages and sometimes – if you’re very lucky – you get a breakdown of what an agency was asked to do, how they did it and what the results were. Often though you just get some lovely pictures and a client name and still no idea of what an agency actually does.

Now, we appreciate that in the modern world where digital has added a whole new challenge and platform for agencies to deal with. That world makes it harder to just say ‘we’re an advertising agency’ or ‘we’re an integrated agency’. Also, perhaps there’s a fear that something too clear will pigeon-hole you in the eyes of a potential client. But we’d argue if you can’t say what you are in a single clear sentence then there’s something wrong somewhere.

An example of how to do it and do it well is McCann’s site (even if they fall into the same bog standard website template as a lot of agencies). Now, admittedly McCann’s are one of the world’s biggest agency networks but they don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll know that and jargonizing their message to death:

“As the world’s leading ad agency network, McCann provides an unmatched combination of award-winning creative, strategic insight and innovation globally, regionally and locally within each of the 100+ countries in which we operate.”

And there you have it. In one simple sentence (even if creative, strategic and innovation are words that are becoming increasingly so broad in meaning as to be almost meaningless.)

There’s no ‘wanky intellectual frippery’ or convoluted attempts to explain what you do via the medium of contemporary dance. It’s all there. McCann’s might have it relatively easy compared to a smaller, lesser known agency but we’d argue that the less well-known you are the more important clarity is in your messaging.

So, please – for the sake of our sanity as much as anything else – sit down and define what you do as simply and directly as possibly as centrally to your website as possible. Then you can send people off to explore the more detailed case studies, methodologies and philosophies you might have as an agency.