Sometimes I make reference to the “top five reasons I left Razorfish.” I’m sure there’s more than five reasons on that list. But the #1 reason was that I saw a widening divide between my values as a UX designer and the values of an advertising agency.
As the gap between my values and the values of the organization grew, I saw a real trend away from delivering meaningful, well-structured experiences, and towards what I called “TV Commercials online.” Personally, hearing things like the “Shave Everywhere” microsite held up as the future of online media really troubled me. I heard the work of information architects being derided as “wonky” while the values of traditional agencies and their ability to deliver a “big idea” were celebrated.
Bob Greenberg says here what I continue to believe, which is that the future of advertising online isn’t more viral videos — it’s taking some of the money that used to be spent on brand marketing and awareness and using it to improve the experience of consideration and decision-making.
Here, the “rational” experience of brands trumps the “emotional” delivery of a clever tagline or visual. Yet ad agencies have almost no experience in the former and way too much comfort in the latter. Even when they develop online campaigns, traditional agencies tend to approach the Web as just another place to deliver a metaphor. So instead of creating useful tools, applications, demos, customer support communities or streamlined ways to complete a transaction, they fall back on familiar stunts and gags, such as viral videos.
I suspect the reason agencies haven’t tackled consideration and preference is because they are far beyond their capabilities rather than simply outside their comfort zone. Real engagement requires entirely new teams of people—like information architects, data analysts and an army of technologists of various stripes. The traditional teams found at agencies simply do not possess the skill sets needed to tackle areas that are deeper inside the funnel, where purchase decisions increasingly take place.