Is digital moving us backwards?

It is interesting how we always correlate digital with progress, as if the two are somehow synonymous. But what if most users’ experiences of websites is of cluttered adverts, confusing content and an online design that is difficult to navigate around? This is what SAY Media‘s president, Troy Young believes- that when it comes to advertising, digital is pulling us back. As Anthony Ha from Adweek asserts these are strange words coming from an executive at an online media and advertising company, but they are words incidentally not far off from what Simon Waterfall was saying at London’s design week– digital needs to change for the better.

SAY Media are pushing for a new kind of web experience, which they exemplify in a new initiative called the “Clean Campaign“- entitled as such because the campaign refers to a set of principles that SAY intends to pursue in all its properties. So what exactly are these principles? Well, they are actually rather basic but apparently the worldwide web has been missing them regardless. The main ideas are-
1) A clear editorial vision focusing, I quote, “consumer attention on the content they care about” with immersive content and a strong point of view that invites discussion.
2) A well-designed website, with only with only one ad on each page thereby presenting a better experience for readers and for premium ads, but, I hate to add, reducing the revenue from additional advertising at the same time.
3) Premium advertising that complements the content and the whole online “experience”.

All-in-all, as Troy argues, producing a less cluttered advertising experience by letting the sole advert relate to the content, and therefore appeal directly to its right audience, who in theory end up loving that product. As such, many of SAY Media sites, follow magazine-style layouts: in theory showing high-quality content and site navigation where you have to click through to read each article.

But is this approach as SAY Media say “Better for the reader. Better for the writer. Better for the advertiser”? Frankly I have my doubts that you can satisfy all these three groups, or create an online strategy that will serve to please all. As a result, I had a little peek at some of their websites, inspired by this trail of thought, and you know what, I could not see any adverts. Take the site XOJane, which it launched with former Jane and Sassy editor Jane Pratt- did I like the website? Yes, very much- it reminded me a little of Grazia online. But did I feel the urge to buy anything? No, I left completely UNbrand-washed (not morally speaking a bad thing). Likewise, home design site Remodelista, apart from the big fact it sold furniture, did not have any logos evident anywhere. So while SAY Media’s seems smiles all-round for the brand-bombarded consumer, I do not think this is going to get champagne corks popping in the offices of the advertiser anytime soon.


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