Monday, October 20, 2008

Digital Ghost Towns


I heard of an interesting concept today (from Alistair at AKQA) - digital ghost towns.

These are corporate websites built at great expense, no doubt expecting a large number of visitors, but which don't get any.

I suppose the most notorious is Bud TV - just the 940,843rd most popular website in the world (according to Alexa).

Another example might be Texaco, which is only the world's 1,844,509th most popular website, despite its super-useful Texaco garage locator. (For when you need petrol, but only Texaco will do).

By some measures, Second Life is another, having 15.5 million registered users, but only 70,000 in any 24-hour period.

Arguably, the internet itself is one giant ghost town. Millions of sites, the vast majority being almost totally empty.

I guess the lesson is the same one it always is. People aren't interested in corporations, they're only interested in what corporations can do for them. So an insurance company has to offer security, a deodorant must give you confidence and a brand of football boots a winning mentality.

And a company website must offer something useful - something that people want - or it will become a digital ghost town.

'Fess up - have you built one?

66 comments:

The H to the A said...

If only everyone could keep their traps shut and NOT comment on this post.

That way, we could all just watch the tumbleweed roll on past and wouldn't it be hilarious?

We could laugh and point and say: 'Look, Scamp is a digital ghost blog!'

But it's not, is it? It's just cos you posted at 8.54pm or something.

What happened? Did a brief come in?

Anonymous said...

Simon, you're only considering the effect. Your analysis makes perfect sense. BUT you forget to also have in view a technical aspect that is vital especially these days: SEO, which might actually be the underlying cause. An advertising agency specialised in digital might worry too much about how creative an online project can be, somehow competing with ATL agencies, and in the long run they might forget the essetial technical aspects, like SEO!!! The content of the site can be brilliantly organised and highly attractive in nature, but if your site is not on the first page of Google generated search results, good night and sweet dreams, efficiency lies somewhere else. And I'm thinking of Wunderman's new website. They had announced this new site oh soooo long before it learned to say "Mom". It is quite a nice place to visit, very informative and cosy but it is .net-based and awfully "optimised". Well, if I'm Jack Daniels and I really need a social network for my clients, would I trust Wunderman to see this done? Unlikely. Or if I would, the conclusion is simple: less TV, more internet.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 10.14pm. There are so many digishops that have absolutely no idea about SEO. They create a creative idea for a brand but you visit it once and never go back. Sites, widgets must have a compelling usefulness across all platforms, compelling enough for you to return again and again. Digishops have lost the engagement plot.

Robin Grant said...

There's nobody here but us Chickens...

Anonymous said...

Oh I got plenty of nuthin'
and nuthin's plenty for me.

Anonymous said...

How much traffic does your (BBH) much acclaimed Lynx website get?

Anonymous said...

See? That's why digital is annoying. Of course it offers an exciting new medium/media. But it's currently over-populated by techno-bores (anons 10.14/11.31)who turn anything slightly fun into some dull dialytic, usually involving an endless stream of obscure acronyms. Bore off back to your IT helpdesk.

Anonymous said...

i meant dialectic

Anonymous said...

And one more thing. Have you ever had to sit in a presentation with the fockers? They don't even notice that everyone's getting ready to slash their wrists.

Anonymous said...

well, 9:08, I happen to be an Art Director actually (and not a digital one; I'm 10:14). And there's a reason why I'm no digital Art Director. It is because I've analysed what digital is about (that's why I know all those technical details) and I found it just as boring as you find it. I've just reacted to Simon's post by reminding him that digital is not just creative thinking and psychology. It is oh so damn technical!!! I even hate job titles like Digital Art Director. There's no Art Direction there. It's just Digital Graphic Design that covers all the programming SF behind it! You cannot even talk about balanced compositions -- see especially web 2.0, where you have to only create design elements and not global compositions. But anyway, thanks for proving once more that UK people like shooting before judging and before knowing who they are talking to. Less TV, read more.

Anonymous said...

Hey 10.14... to be fair to 9.08 you did suddenly make the exciting interactive world of the internet sound very dull.

Best Regards 9.32

Anonymous said...

well, it happens to be rather informative than creative. And it does a great job in connecting people. I guess that's where creativity begins. How exciting can you make this dull digital world by adding creative CONTENT on this dull infrastructure?

Anonymous said...

I'm 12.10pm on the 15th August 2024, and you're all wrong. I can't tell you what happens though - it would breach my contract as a time traveller.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with digital is that it requires effort on behalf of your target market. And, as we all know, people tend to be lazy, selfish and stupid. Not the type of people to be hunting down a website no matter how marvellous it is.

Anonymous said...

anon 9.23 (originally anon 10.14)from anon 9.08.
I stand corrected and offer my apologies saah/madam (delete as applicable).

Anonymous said...

I guess it happens to the best of us... Already forgot what you've written, 10:05. Have a sunny day.

No More Suits said...

I posted about this sometime back. Ironic really. My post was about sites that never get visited, which I posted on a site that never gets visited. Well if the people won't come to the blog, the blog will have to come to Scamp.


Monday, 8 September 2008

The Cyberspace Grave Yard

Seems these days campaigns come with a pre-bolted ".com". Do brands really need these websites? What value do they add? And how does one advertise the site rather than slapping the URL at the bottom of any poster?

I spend a fair time on the net, and I've never, out of my own free will, gone to the homepage of Branston pickles or Lurpack. Why would i? Why would anyone with a life do so? Nobody in the middle of stalking an ex girlfriend on facebook and scouring ebay for a date, will ever take a time out to explore the world of the brownest and tangiest pickle.

Now give me a reason to visit, something I can engage with, something that improves my life and I'm there.

But what happens to these sites once they have served their purpose? Will they be buried like an Egyptian relic, only to be discovered in 100 years time by our descendants?

Maybe if more thought went into a brand's homepage that goes into their campaigns, the Internet wouldn't feel like a giant reservoir with one or two fish, a few supermarket trolleys and a shit load of floaters (no pun intended).

Ferris said...

My word, Second Life...haven't heard that mentioned for a while. It was supposed to be the next big thing, but now it feels so dated. In fact, our agency was the first virtual agency on there, in the form of a tree! What was that all about?!

Do BBH still use their Second Life office, or has it too become a ghost house?

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous 09:23 - you obviopulsy have no clue about doing cool digital shit -

Here's something for you

http://thefwa.com/

http://bannerblog.com.au/

Anonymous said...

"cool digital shit"
stephen hawking's granny just cringed

Anonymous said...

10:38, I guess you really haven't got the idea of Scamp's post. To remind you, it was about sites that are intended to gather together huge numbers of visitors. Those are especially web 2.0 and web 3.0 websites. You came up with EXACTLY the wrong examples, namely the ones that are intended to be rather artistic than often visited. Thanks for playing along, THAT's what Scamp was talking about, those are very likely to end up being digital ghost towns. But SOME of them (very few, I dare say) do look good and can be attractive for web designers (how many of you were digital creatives? I remember not too many...). Less internet, more marketing.

Anonymous said...

Really like the idea of visualising the internet and showing how much of it is actually occupied/habitated

You've probably already seen this:
http://www.onlinefandom.com/archives/map-of-online-community/

Anonymous said...

Really like the idea of visualising the internet and showing how much of it is actually occupied/habitated

You've probably already seen this:
http://www.onlinefandom.com/archives/map-of-online-community/

Anonymous said...

Clients need to realise that the Internet is fast becoming just a more convenient way to watch television.

Outside of the geek hardcore real people have no time for stupid apps and pointless microsites, but they will watch a great video clip and share it with those they want to impress.

So clients, put your budgets back into TV production and keep a little aside for online seeding, then we can all get over this digital novelty and focus on basic principles. Like writing a script that can ONLY be shot in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

very good point, 11:44. For those who haven't seen this yet, enjoy it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIM8lP7fP6Y . I really do subscribe to Sir Hegarty's point of view, that while changing the technology to promote your idea you should understand one thing: ideas remain, technology changes.

Ben said...

David Abbott: 'shit that arrives at a million miles an hour is still shit.'

(He might have said 'crap' in stead of 'shit' though.)

Anonymous said...

(Simon, while admiring Chris Gilmour's artworks http://www.chrisgilmour.com/en.opere.html I suddenly thought of Britvic's Robinsons lighter bottle that allowed them to reduce the amount of cardboard used in the trays displaying the bottles in store.)

Paul said...

Ben. Or even excrement?

Anonymous said...

11:14 Good point! No need to change. No need to open your mind to new possibilities. Carry on doing what you're doing and everything will be ok. You've got your head buried in the sand mate. For a start when was the last time you sent on an entertaining clip? And do you think this is a serious option for every potential advertiser? Funny clip fatigue set in quite a while ago in case you hadn't noticed. People who watch TV on their computers are gonna want to avoid ads just as much as they do when they watch TV on their TVs. Our objective should be to to be useful. It's that simple. And to do that you have to be really creative.

Anonymous said...

Less internet, more marketing.

i like you. placement kids, listen up.

Anonymous said...

And I thought all the digital haters had moved to Wal's blog...

Anonymous said...

2:42, use words wisely. Hate is not what best characterises our feelings for digital applications. It's just that it looks more like a container. It still has to be filled with creative ideas in order to become world revolving not only in terms of technological innovation, but in terms of creative advertising also. Less programming syntax, more vocabulary.

Bentos said...

When I started at Art College Design on a computer was treated as a different module. So there was Graphic Design, Illustration, Fashion, Printing and Computer Design.

Pretty soon though it was recognised that we'd left those days behind and the computer had infiltrated all the other disciplines to such a degree as to make keeping it as a module on its own ridiculous.

I expect the same to happen to 'digital' anytime now. I still feel odd when people talk about 'Rich Media'. People don't talk about 'Colour' Television do they?

Anonymous said...

exactly, Bentos. A digital application is not a purpose, but an instrument, a technique if you want, it still needs to present a brilliant idea, just like both oil painting and computer generated image need a concept in order to transmit a message.

FishNChimps said...

Excellent post, young Scamp. Those of us working in the above-the-line yoghurt quarries are always told that the digital custard mines is where it's all at. Bloody dwarfs.

Anonymous said...

ch..ch..check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eEF8zplJY8

Anonymous said...

@ Bentos

"I still feel odd when people talk about 'Rich Media'. People don't talk about 'Colour' Television do they?"

BECAUSE NORMAL BANNERS ARE B&W.
WE KNOW EVERYTHING LOLZ!

Anonymous said...

So is the common feeling that solely digital agencies don't/can't come up with good ideas? Does the creative work of CB+P, RGA, Dare, Poke, AKQA mean nothing to you guys?

Seriously, I'm interested.

Anonymous said...

Since when were CP+B 'solely digital'?

Stan said...

Funny that, 8.59am I was involved in the building of the Lynx website. I sat there listening to the BBH adcocks spouting off about creating an entertainment portal, and we had to get all 'excited' and build this piss poor version of Loaded on line. This stuff is the cemetary of the digital ghost town.

Anonymous said...

It certainly looks that way.

Anonymous said...

I love it how everyone ignores that the insight came FROM SOMEONE WHO WORKS IN DIGITAL.

Anonymous said...

Believe less, question more.

Anonymous said...

Digital is the new Fallon juniors

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone CHOOSE to visit a brand's website? We spend our days trying to find ways to slide our mesages into the lives of people through posters, TV ads, press etc etc with little or no success yet clients think people will actually make an effort to seek out marketing? I think not. Not matter how entertaining your website or how subtle people know it's marketing so they aren't interested.

Anonymous said...

And that is the end of that. Well said.

Anonymous said...

You obviously just can't find a tune with the digital and simply can't find a way to understand that the online is just a virtual version of the physical world. A brand's website is just like a regular store. And the banners and links posted on various high traffic websites are just like posters in the street, with the difference that they take you instantly to the virtual store. And I say virtual store because most brands offer the possibility of online shopping. Less Renaissance, more abstract art.

Anonymous said...

Come on now,

Less more, more fire.

Anonymous said...

anon 9.36
there's a difference between an online 'shop' and a brand website no?

Anonymous said...

actually, not really, not lately, not if there's a good strategy behind the brand's website -- see Nike, for more details.

Anonymous said...

9.05 - very funny. I'm not falling for it though.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between an online shop and a brand website. It's that the second one is an utter waste of time. To use the "real world" analogy mentioned above (9.36), imagine if you went to a branch of Natwest and tried to sort out a direct debit, and you walked into a shiny nice shop full of pleasant, goodlooking staff and videos playing on plasma screens telling you about products.

And then they said "Oh, you actually want to do something? Oh, that's next door, this is the BRAND shop"

So you go next door and it's like the betting shop in Trainspotting.

The thing that I find staggering is that a lot of agencies and clients genuinely seem to think that the second shop has nothing to do with the brand experience.

Anonymous said...

well, what you've just described is the unhappy case of bad strategy -- bad strategy is not specific to the online, it has an overloaded record in ATL also.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

9.36

That relies on the dated notion that people are 'surfing' the internet and not using it – like 99% people do - for their own ends.

So no, the internet isn't a digital version of the real world.

That idea went out with Internet Explorer version 1.0.

Anonymous said...

ESPECIALLY because people are USING the internet the idea is still vertical, because instead of searching for the latest pictures of Angelina Jolie they can actually use online shopping and I might be old-fashioned but I really prefer looking for cool Nike running shoes on Nike's official website (which, by the way, also provides online shopping facilities) rather than on ebay. Less Internet Explorer, more Firefox.

James Cooper said...

Great stuff. I haven't seen anything so funny since Ricky Gervais first welcomed the 'Swindon Mob'.

'Digital Novelty' - hilarious!! Brilliant!!

Anonymous said...

2.01

Call me old fashioned but I like buying trainers from a shop where I can try them on. Weird I know.

The internet and the high st are radically different.

My computer is mine and in my control, so nob off interrupting me and getting in the way. The high st isn't mine and not in my control so I'm more open to suggestion. Different vibe all together.

Sure some sites are better than others. But there's still less chance of me being drawn in than on the high st.

Anonymous said...

4:46 PM

The internet isn't yours either. Just because it's your computer, you're using a browser to look at another piece of information on another server somewhere in the world.

Otherwise I can complain about the high street too, they are my eyes, why do you assail them with your logos?!

Anonymous said...

5.36

actually i'm using MY browser on my personal computer to view something I have chosen to view.

surely you see a difference? any ads in the digital world are always by definition invading 'my' space.

on the high st that's not the case. in fact it's kind of the opposite.

anyone who says the internet shopping experience, especially in terms of advertising, is the same as the high st, is talking out of their arse.

Anonymous said...

Did you make the browser yourself then?

And just because you're looking at something you want to watch doesn't mean it is in your space. You are looking at a bit of someone else's web proerty through another companies web viewing software (i.e. a browser). The only thing that is yours is the computer, and you have the choice to point it where you want, but if you're pointing it anything apart from your own website then you can't really get annoyed by things invading 'your' space.

I'm not saying the high street and website shopping is the same, far from it. I'm just saying telling websites to "nob off" because you feel they are somehow invading your privicy is incorrect.

But peace and goodwill to you anyway dude, now if you'll excuse me my eBay auctions are ending soon...

Anonymous said...

i'm not talking about me being annoyed, the nob off was just a figure of speech. I'm talking about how the mindset of the everyday consumer on the internet is radically different from when they are on the high st.

I was responding to someone else initially, I think, who was saying they were exactly the same.

And on your point on the browser: most consumers don't care who made the browser, it's still 'their' browser in their mind and that's what matters. With their bookmarks, preferences etc.

Online ads are nearly always going to feel like an invasion of privacy. That's the way it feels to a consumer anyway, and what's rational or what's fair to the advertiser doesn't really come into it.

Good luck on eBay.

Alan Wolk said...

I think Campaign, of all places, picked this up, but here it is, in its latest incarnation: "Clicking Through The Internet" which explains Simon's (correct) observation.

http://dm2daily.com/index.php/archive/7-clicking-through-the-internet-alan-wolk

BTW - I was talking with a British expat friend the other day about how differently digital is viewed in the UK and US. For example-- for a US creative to have an actual physical book, instead of a website, is akin to slapping a giant "I am a useless old dinosaur" on said portfolio. Even if all that's on the new hip website are TV spots and press ads.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so sure that British ECDs don't think the same, especially nowadays, when the UK produces ads that "travel" across the entire Europe, so the information has to be delivered as fast as possible and in a flexible format. Maybe they are not as radical as the US people, but I don't see it as a huge gap or a steep slope between the US and the UK advertising principles. There are major differences, but they don't really begin with the online. The differences are the same that always were and they are mostly visible in the way they address their customers. Regardless of the channel used.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party on this post but someone might read it and have a thought... A lot of digital work is created for the cash that clients wil pay for it, fact. The last few years have been a digital cash cow, milk that bad boy for all it's worth and talk about actual campaign value later. That is the reason that we've had shit splash pages, microsites, pointless banner campaigns, expenive and ineffective "brand" MSN homepage takeovers etc.

Digital can achieve so much more than that, especially as part of truly integrated campaigns.. in fact digital should be the centre piece of integrated campaigns with the dopes writing shit poster ads for the tube at the end of the food chain. Print...Measurable? No. Impact? No. Engaging? Give me a break. Digital wipes the floor with other channels and anyone who says that you digital doesn't need creative direction does not know the channel, simple as.

The future of digital will orientate around DR, SEO, affiliate and search. Anything els will be very efficient and no frills, or be part of high budget integrate campaigns like Walkers Create the Flavour.

Ghost Towns are pretty much a direct consequence of adland selling in digital to clients for the dollars during economic boom time. I wouldn't be surpirsed if accounts are lost and won on the strength of the digital "work" sold in before the crunch kicked in.

hesslei said...

Scamp attempts to join the Junkyard Dogs right away, but the leader, Buster, gives Scamp a "test" to prove his courage. The test involves stealing a tin can from a large, savage dog named Reggie. Scamp nearly manages to get it but is instead chased by Reggie. He and Angel manage to evade Reggie and see him caught by the dog catcher. Buster appears to be impressed.

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hesslei....

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