Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

November 17, 2008

Remember When TV Commercials Were Brilliant?

I don't own a television, because I so detest watching today's crummy commercials. But at one point in time -- some forty years ago -- commercials were brilliant, arguably more fun to watch than the shows in which they were interspersed. Check out this Alka Seltzer spot, which is just as funny today as the date in aired back in 1969. The agency was Doyle Dane Bernbach, whose creative director, Roy Grace (1937-2003), conceived it and other classic spots of the era.

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September 10, 2008

New Mediapost Article: Is The Ad World Finally Taking SEM Seriously?

New Mediapost Article: Is The Ad World Finally Taking SEM Seriously? Advertising Week is an annual ritual in New York that often brims with self-congratulatory silliness, and I tend to avoid it like the plague. Advertising -- at least in my mind -- is largely based on lies, spin, the creation of false needs and false consciousness. Frankly, if we as a nation spent less on advertising and more on improving products, we'd all have a better world. Still, as I write in this week's MediaPost, there's a bit of good news: this year's Advertising Week appears to be paying more attention to SEM (Search Engine Marketing), a far less wasteful, less obnoxious, and more profitable form of marketing that deserves its day in the sun.

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July 31, 2008

Interpublic Invests in Huge: But Is Huge's Web Site Any Good?

Interpublic Invests in Huge: But Is Huge's Web Site Any Good?Ad holding company Interpublic announced that it has bought a majority interest in Huge, a digital design shop. Because I've recently been on the war path against the crappy websites maintained by large ad agencies, I wanted to check out the site of, to see what shape it was in, and what such shape might tell us about Huge's digital prowess. Here's what I found:

Compared to the sites maintained by old line ad agencies, is significantly better, but still needs help in terms of usability and search engine fitness. While it does make good use of metatags (yes, Virginia, you still need to pay attention to them, because they'll be used as the descriptions on SERPs), the site should add TITLE tags to its home page index.html file. This title tag can be populated with the same text used in the META tag ("HUGE is a strategic design organization that develops commercially successful websites, software applications, branding solutions, and more)." Frankly, I don't think a lot of people are going to be searching on these terms, so I'd throw them out and start over.

It looks like somebody at has been studying SEO. The site's main content areas ("Process," "Our Work," "News," "Why We're Different") are all hosted on static pages, which is a good thing, and they do have unique TITLE statements, which is also good. Not so good, however, is's crappy URL formation. For example the URL for the page for its AtlanticRecords client page is:
This URL would work much harder with search engines if it read: Accomplishing this no harder than installing the right Blog plug-in.

When I test-drove this morning, I noticed that the site was not always available (other sites were). This may have been due to the site being under a heavy load from all of the press coverage about the Interpublic announcement, so it's probably just a temporary bug.

Again, is many steps above your typical ad agency site. The signs of obvious cluelessness are minimal, the site is generally usable and its minor infirmities could be easily improved with just a few tweaks. Best of all, makes controlled use of Flash, which tends to sprout like unwanted Kudzo on other ad agency site.

It's refreshing to see an ad agency site that doesn't suck outright. Good job, Huge, you've got a clue!

Searchability/Usability Score: B

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July 29, 2008

Why Are Advertising Agency Sites So Awful?

Why Are Advertising Agency Sites So Awful?Ad agencies are an endangered species in a cost-conscious, metrics-driven world ruled by Google. Today's ad men are in a profound state of denial about how much their comfortable world has changed, and there's no better evidence of this than by examining their web pages. Here you'll find cluelessness across the board. Here's a quick and sickening report on the search engine readiness of some major agency sites. Read it and weep.
Frames deprive content pages of unique URLs, the home page has practically no content at all, and the only indexed content seems to be in uploaded PDFs. These sins are typical of Flash-heavy, search-engine ignorant sites. Perhaps no serious agency types care whether folks come in through search engines. If so, they're making a big mistake.
Usability/Searchability Grade: D

Draft FCB
Better than the other sites in terms of having SOME text content on the home page; worse but commits sin of making text content images. (Are they worried that somebody will steal the big idea? Or just paranoid about the fonts? Hint: Stylesheets can work wonders.) What's ironic is that DraftFCB is actually buying the keyword "advertising agency" from Google. But the back button doesn't work, which means you're trapped.
Usability/Searchability Grade: D-
Home page text content? Nope. Consistent navigation? Nope. Search-engine unfriendly fames, over-reliance on Flash and PDFs? Triple yes. SIte must be doing something right, because it ranks very well organically on Google for the search term "advertising agency," so it's not a total wash. If only these guys had made proper use of their Meta tags, the listing would be much less cryptic. Usability/Searchability Grade: C
The late David Ogilvy would have kniptions if he could see his company's current site. The home page has a text count of zero, clicking on links results in annoying pop-up pages, the URL structure is a mess (although it could be worse), and content is duplicated on several Ogilvy-owned sites (which will cause Google's Duplicate Content Filter to have kniptions!). May not inspire confidence that Ogilvy is digital-ready.
Usability/Searchability Grade: D

Young and Rubicam
No surprise here. Texts live only as images, without ALT tags. No worse than the other sites, but no better. I suppose this bad situation is due to the consensual wisdeom of the ad men, and other B2B types, who reason that it's unlikely that any real client is searching for their services. WRONG!
Usability/Searchability Grade: F

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