Digital Agency Sites Suck

When a quick-witted VP at Forrester was once asked why Forrester’s website is so awful, despite us having a multi-million dollar business in helping clients with their sites, the VP said: “the cobbler’s kids always have the worst shoes.” But should this be true of firms that actually make web sites?

For a few years now, some of the biggest digital agencies in the world have had awful web sites. Awful because they provided little to no compelling content that expressed the ethos of their agency, their point-of-view on the digital space, and the emotional tone of their past work.

Plus, most digital agencies’ sites always seemed to say the same thing and look the same way. An animated logo there, some rich, photography there that has nothing to do with their agency, and some copy that tries to sound nonchalantly confident. In fact, most digital agency sites have looked even worse than traditionally agencies. Compare Avenue A’s site to Leo Burnett’s, for example — the latter has a totally innovative web interface, while Ave A’s site has been the same few pages for the past three years.

Recently, two major agencies have redesigned their sites: R/GA and Critical Mass. Surprisingly or not, these sites have some visual similarities. But they are certainly a step forward.

I say it over and over — today’s digital agencies need to do two things:

  1. Become a full-house strategic advisory to your clients — a strategy partner that leads them through the murky waters of the social web, WOM, and new media, and how that doesn’t just tie to a Web site, but to an entire business, instead of being just a production company.
  2. If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk. And that starts with a unique Web site which expresses how you view the world, and what makes your work and approach a unique one.

So, kudos R/GA and Critical Mass for taking a stab at this. Digitas however still doesn’t get it. Can you please explain how random stock photography, and a web-generic layout will make any client want to partner with you?



RGA’s home page (above) showcases recent work with a strong focus on branding them as the agency of the “digital age.” [click image to expand]




CriticalMass’ home page (above) has got some random animation and links to the social web, like their flicker and twitter pages [click image to expand] (not sure why it’s two big for my browser window though.)