(Image courtesy of Ideas That Spread)
Is social media killing the campaign microsite?
I don’t think so.
I think the advertising industry is killing the microsite.
What do you think is the average ad exec’s definition of a microsite?
If that is your line of thinking, then the campaign microsite is surely doomed.
And if the advertising industry doesn’t change it’s mentality towards the Web, then it is doomed to follow in the footsteps of that other industry that failed to understand the culture of the Web; the recording industry.
But that’s another story, for another time.
Right now, you should already know that the campaign mircosite is NOT a version of a commercial.
A website is not an interactive poster. It’s not an online billboard. It’s not electronic direct mail. Look it up.
What does an average campaign microsite do for a brand?
Is it geared to the business of actually selling something? Does it push downloads? And more importantly, like the rest of the Web, was it built to last?
Sadly, the answer is ‘No’ to all of the above.
The fact is, your average campaign microsite and perhaps most websites that are created by most advertising agencies are purely built for fun, immediate gratification and discardable experiences.
Moving pictures. Dynamic travel. Creative masturbation.
I think the problem is that most of these campaign microsites have navigation and user interfaces that are conceived by art directors who have limited experience on the Web.
They’re not built for consumers; they’re built for the industry.
And I’m not bitching about art directors because I feel like it; I’m just saying that these sort of art directors make mistakes because they are either not trained for the Web or simply refuse to learn.
So, they create content that isn’t organized in logical hierarchies, but rather on the basis of how cool it looks. They create user interfaces that overlap and confuse, with error messages are mechanical and dissonant to the voice of the copy. Their site’s usability is a joke.
Navigation is never intuitive because it isn’t tested on target audiences; these art directors simply assume that people will learn how to use their website because their brand is so totally awesome, so why wouldn’t they want to learn?
The end result is usually a website that has very little thinking to it; there is no separation between content, presentation and behavior, no order but chaos.
In short, campaign websites end up not as gateways but dead-ends for brands.
They’re self-contained environments where people are expected to spend hours at an end.
They are sites that aren’t scalable, sites that are built to last typically between 6-8 weeks.
Sites that aren’t built for sharing, for discussion, or interaction. Like the Flash loading times, these sites are like detention classes that take forever to begin.
And they’re sites that force you to behave in a certain way in order to achieve your momentary gratification.
But you can’t dictate behaviour on the Web!
And it’s not just art directors who are at fault; copywriters sometimes don’t understand how to write copy for the Web. They’re not familiar with the medium, so they write long copy, thinking that people will read it because it’s there. They use a tagline instead of an elevator pitch. They don’t care about analytics or how their website interacts with other sites.
Account management who are clueless are similarly contributing to the demise of the campaign microsite. And so are the planners who don’t understand how people use the Web, nowadays. And upper management who fail to grasp how the Web is continuously evolving.
In short, we are all to blame.
All of us who are in interactive/online/digital/web/whatever who fail to grasp the intricacies of the medium are at fault.
Because we are the ones who are perpetuating this culture of ignorance and failure to learn and evolve.
So, don’t blame social media.