“We think Internet Explorer sucks!”
So said an ad agency on their site.
I’ll not name names, but just say they’re in the American mid-west, not represented anywhere in my profile, and I have no connection to them whatsoever. I was looking at a corporation’s site, saw a piece I admired, and investigated the source of the work -which led me to this particular agency. “Hmmmm. I wonder what they’re all about?” I checked out their information regarding their work, history, and the ever-present “culture” page and eventually came across the above statement. “Is that so? Nervy lot you are!” I thought.
A bit of background. Yes, I used to use IE exclusively. Why? Simple. It was because of familiarity and routine. I switched over to IE from Netscape (ha!) when the web was a whippersnapper and whenever I had a personal demand of the web, IE served me fine for years. Sure, my job requires that I be well-versed in ALL browsers, but when I felt called upon to order a CD from Amazon or check out how the Oakland A’s did last night, I ramped up Internet Explorer and got what I needed. I had no complaints until recently, when I subscribed to MiLB (minor league baseball) and saw that Chrome performed much better in viewing games (go Montgomery Biscuits!). Since MiLB is now a part of my web “routine”, the change became permanent.
Even though statistics clearly indicate a focus or preference for the likes of Chrome and Safari, Internet Explorer remains a presence. I’m sure no responsible agency would approach their client and say, “Only 5% of your site traffic are IE users. We think their stupid for using it so if you don’t mind, we’ll just cast them aside, ok? So you lose potential customers. You’re doing ok – so you can swing that, right?” What’s often ignored in statistics are the demographics in browser use. My mother-in-law, who is a vibrant and active 80 years old, loves the internet. She’s always emailing family, sending pictures, and ordering things. Lots of things. She uses Internet Explorer simply because that’s the browser her provider showed her when they installed her network in her home. I can talk to her until I’m blue in the face about how superior Chrome is, but it’ll fall on deaf ears. She’s not the minor league baseball fan that I am, and she simply has NO interest in any of the areas where the differences reveal themselves. Are there more people like her? There certainly is. And you know what? They have money. And they want to spend it.
“Hipness” is the culprit here. It’s extraordinary that such an attribute would be so aggressively pursued for being something that is ultimately so transparent. When we see a hip site, we can recognize that – “Oh, I get it – they’re trying to be hip” – and then we do one of two things. We either say:
“Hey, I like these people! This is a lot of fun!”
“Eeesh! Whatta buncha jerks.”
The afore-mentioned company had “Internet Explorer sucks!” on their site, positioned at the bottom of a section spotlighting their technical capabilities. Um, ok. Now, if you were a decision-maker at a company and had to choose between one making such a statement and one simply NOT making such a statement – all other things being absolutely equal – whom would you choose? Dude.
Hip is fun. Hip is funny. Hip is funky. Hip is where it’s at, cat. But there’s a line separating it from becoming truly obnoxious that isn’t really as fine a line as some might think. The company I keep referring to here has a manifesto on their site – clearly with a tone meant to be funny and smart(ass). In it, they manage to alienate:
– Native Americans
– the British
– owners of American-made cars
– people against hunting
– and even ice dancing enthusiasts
Some agencies are quite skilled at bringing fun to the table in the form of up-to-date, relevant, and clever humour. Others…less so. The differences between an agency’s hip sensibilities may be very small (perhaps even non-existent) compared to their client. And if that’s a desired bit of niche marketing, fine. After all, an agency wants to communicate their entity as a “character” at times – one that would make a company’s personality say, “Hey, I really think I might like to work with this guy!”
Keep in mind that from there, a client may ask themselves, “Now…..do they have the personality that I think can sell our products?” Unless they’re looking to sell some, like, killer weed….the answer could very well be, “No.”