Shiny toys and happy people

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If you're an advertising agency and I'm on your home page, 100% of the time I'm there to do something other than watch a Flash intro. And should you ever find me waiting patiently for the flexing of creative muscle to run its animated course, it's because I couldn't find the “skip” button.
Obviously this is intended to be a little tongue-in-cheek—I realize pretty much every agency puts a Flash greeting at the front end of their site so there has to be a reason for it, and yes, I do enjoy seeing the fruits of creativity at other times. But purely in terms of my own user experience, it actually hinders me in doing what I came there to do—which, 100% of the time, is to find out some piece of information or other about your agency, and to do it as quickly as possible.
Of course, it's no biggie, assuming I'm browsing from my desktop. But what if I'm using my smartphone? According to Google, there are already more than 69 million web-enabled smartphones in the US, compared to 71 million households with the internet. And Americans will perform an estimated 250 billion mobile searches in 2011. So, you'd better have a mobile version of your site, and it better not have a Flash greeting. But that's in the agency world.
If you're a pharma company and your product or disease education site isn't optimized for mobile, well that's not good. It may sound like an obvious consideration, but when technology and creativity combine they can form a powerful distraction and it's amazing how often the basics can get overlooked by the urge to follow a trail of shiny toys.
Several examples of this eagerness to jump in and adopt a technology without fully thinking through the needs of the audience and the outcome of the execution were cited in presentations at last month's ePharma Summit in New York.
Digital faux pas included the lack of any apparent mobile optimization for a few of the bigger product.com websites and the fact that a Google search for “high cholesterol” apparently takes 120 pages to produce the first branded cholesterol drug site. And at an earlier conference on mobile communications, one presenter was talking about the adoption of QR code technology.
“Clients are often excited by QR codes,” he said, “but the reality is we are often talking to ourselves.” Using the example of positioning QR codes on the back of trucks, he asked: “How many people are chasing trucks with their iPhones?”
The ePharma Summit seemed to have well and truly got its groove back, with high levels of buzz accompanying many of the ideas and technologies, both present and futuristic. This spirit of innovation reminded me a little of the excitement surrounding the early dotcom era when I was managing editor at a magazine for “new media” marketers. It's important, of course, not to repeat the kinds of mistakes that were made around the millennium, when the pursuit of cool technology was not always accompanied by solid business or fulfillment plans (ah, the benefit of hindsight). Pets supplier Pets.com and New York's free instant delivery service Kozmo.com are two casualties that spring to mind.
So, the message to pharma e-marketers is simple: It's great to be enthused by new technology and other cool stuff, but don't become hypnotized at the expense of getting the basics right. But most of all, make sure your website works on my smartphone.
I'll stick a sock puppet in it, now…
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