Monday, 31 October 2011

The trickiest of all briefs: the creative team’s website

“Should we include that Eurobest bronze?”
“Does our ‘about’ section sound a bit wanky?”
“Are we Jack & Danny. Or Jack and Danny?”

These and a million and one other questions can pass through a team’s mind when faced with that trickiest of all briefs: their own website. It really is a bit of a mindfuck. You start out thinking, ‘I’ll just put together a little website for me ‘n’ me mate. Can’t take that long’. Two months later, you’re still sweating over an ampersand.

There was a time when a team would merely lug around a large shiny silver portfolio. The Cripple Creek Company was the brand for this – aptly named as art directors and copywriters alike would sustain debilitating back injuries from the sheer weight and size of the bloody thing. The warped thought process being, ‘we’ve got a great big heavy portfolio, we’re a great big heavyweight team’. Of course these days it’s totally different.

No sore back or getting caught carrying your book through the post room. You don’t even need to get up from your desk now. There are ideas in all your work, so any team worth their creative salt should put an idea in their website. 

Right? Maybe.

It’s very easy to go off-piste and wreck a lovely body of work. Theming all your work around the animal kingdom might have been a good idea in principle, but when the prospective ECD opens it on a busy Monday morning, your precious site may be closed before the landing page has loaded.

Other slightly disturbing ‘concept sites’ include showing where the creative team fit into the Darwinian evolution of time. And, believe it or not, making the site a boxing ring, which forces the poor ECD to appreciate (once again) that you really are a ‘heavyweight’ team.

Maybe the idea is there’s no idea. A look a some of adland’s brighter stars reveals virtually none of them have gone for one. They’ve just gone for a ‘look’. But even that may be too much. An overly fancy design can appear dated very quickly and can get irritating to navigate. What seems to work best is clean, simple design.
Photographers’ sites are a good source of inspiration, merely showing the pictures they’ve taken in a nicely presented format.Nadav Kander’s is a brilliant example of this. You’re going to be employed for the work you’ve made, not the digital wrapper you’ve put it in. Or as Traktor put it on their pared-down site: “We make films, not websites.”
Tanya Livesey, from headhunters The Talent Business, sees a fair number of websites every day. ‘The key to a creative team’s website is navigation and usability. Plus careful curation. It needs to be a showcase of the best of what you’ve done, not a repository for everything you’ve ever done.”

So what about that Eurobest bronze? Which awards do you put in? All of them? Some? Just the ‘good’ ones? 
Some teams diligently list every single thing they’ve won, which can look mighty impressive, if a little anal. Others merely go for the highlights, such as D&AD and Cannes. It all depends what you’ve got in your locker.

And how do you showcase all this award winning work? By media or by client?

The media route seems pretty popular, with‘TV’ and ‘print’ followed by the tricky question of what to title all the other stuff. Ambient-digital-social doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, nor sit on your header very well. Some teams go for ‘360’ or 'Big Thinking’. For a while it used to be ‘nontraditional’. But that perversely made you sound traditional. ‘Integrated’ seems to be what the awards shows call it now. 

Alternatively, teams choose to bypass media and present the work solely on the basis of the client it was written for. One click and there’s the work. This does seem incredibly easy and simple to follow. It can feel a little cold and clinical. But maybe that’s good. The work inside the wrapper will do the warming up.

Think back to those days with that hefty silver case. You’d lug it all the way over there and the PA would tell you the ECD is too busy now and you should just leave it in the office. The rule was, you must be able to leave your book with the ECD still understanding all the ideas without you even in the room. And that’s still the case today.

As one ECD told me recently, “It’s all very nice having a blog and some groovy graphics and a link to a gallery where you ‘liked’ something, but really, just show me the fucking work.”

This piece first appeared in the November 2011 copy of shots magazine