More on marketing agencies and stupidness

June 6, 2006

One of the scariest things I’ve found in my web development career to date is how little marketing agencies selling web work actually know about the web.  One of the most recent amusements was when we were supplied some designs where buttons didn’t look at all like buttons, posing some usability issues.

When this was pointed out to the account executive, they looked up with a blank look on her face, and replied “Can you send us some examples of buttons then?”.  Considering that this is someone who is heavily involved in dealing with web work on a day-to-basis and forms part of a team selling web work to clients, making such a dumb statement rings alarm bells.  If you’re selling web work, you should know what a button is, dumbass.

The problem is, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.  Most of these large corporations have people equally stupid in their online marketing teams, so when they deal with incompetent agencies, they don’t realise that they people they are talking to aren’t giving them correct information. However, as they have so little understanding of the web and the marketing agency are master blaggers, the client awards the project to them without realising the implications of their decision. The problem is further compounded when the agency is unable to say no to the client when they make unrealistic or stupid demands, and unable to offer the client any meaningful advice due to lack of knowledge.

For example, in early 2000, I was freelancing for a small web agency, doing work for a larger marketing agency whose experience was primarily in offline media.  They had a strong relationship with a massive brand, so when the client wanted to revamp their website, they turned to their account executive in this large marketing agency to get the job done.

The client also had some ideas on what they wanted on the homepage of the website – a monsterous 1.5mb flash animation, which was a digitised clip of one of their video promotions.  Not understanding the implications of this, such as most people were still on 56K modems and the recommended maximum page size was 60K, the marketing agency agreed to their clients demand without a second thought, and then promptly handed this onto us with a note to get it done as soon as possible.

Despite various phone conversations and some foul language being thrown about the office in disgust at such a stupid decision, we were ultimately forced to go ahead with this and built the monsterous atrocity. When an account executive agrees to stupid ideas their clients throw at them, it’s virtually impossible to get them to go back, as they don’t want to look like idiots, even if it means delivering a half-assed solution.

When you’re an experienced web developer, the hardest thing to do is shut up and do what you’re told, but sadly, there’s often no alternative.  You can only shout upon deaf ears or try to reason with a fool so many times, until your voice goes or your patience evaporates.

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