I worked on automotive online advertising for a few different automakers and they all had one thing in common when it came to online – they wanted to be BMW. Starting with the launch of the visionary BMW Film every other car marker has been chasing to catch BMW and their consistently innovative use of every aspect of the interactive medium. So I was more than little excited when I got a note that BMW had re-launched their Web site right before the Christmas holiday.
After spending some time with the site I found myself so frustrated that another brand I expected so much from gave me nothing but a bad case of deja vu back to the mediocre adobe.com re-design of a few weeks ago. The most notable change is the site design that took a step backwards to be painfully generic with the use of so much white space and small photos that there is no visual hierarchy or energy to the design. It is that lack of energy that is most disappointing because I am car guy who would kill to have a 6 series but there is nothing in this design that gets me the least bit excited about any of these cars. The upgrades to the site seem to have come in the form of a more visual configuration tool that incorporates images and 360’s of every possible accessory combination in the ‘build your own’ sections. I think this is certainly a worthy addition since I know how useful of a sales tool it can be but I just wanted more.
I have been writing this piece for about a week now and I haven’t been able to hit the publish button. I had everything written but it just didn’t feel right and keep rolling around in the back of my head. Today I finally sat down to work out what was bothering me and why this had become a lot deeper for me than I expected. It’s probably partially because it will be the last thing I publish in 2007 but it also had me looking back over my work from the past year and all the work I have seen created by our industry. I keep coming back to one word for all of it – safe.
Safe makes me mad. It’s a four letter word. It’s like good. Who wants to be good? They are compromises. What made me so mad about the Adobe and BMW sites were that these brands who’s audience looked to them to be innovators and they took the safe route and squandered the opportunity. If this year the iPhone and Wii have shown us anything it was that there can be a mass market appetite for something innovative that pushes the envelope. I am going to pass on the hollow New Year’s resolutions and just work to keep safe out of my work in 2008.