Be Good To Your Geek

Julia Roy, posted on Flickr

Geeks can be your friend

I write this wondering why clients and agency account  handlers have such difficulty getting on with web designers, geeks, nerds and visitors from Mars.

Geeks understand the suits from Client Service, but, at heart, advertising agency people do not see Geeks as their friends.

Geeks divert money away from TV, work with iPod phones in their ears, are irritable when interrupted, and don’t create any mess.

The truth is that Client Service people are frightened of geeks. And I write this having been an agency account handler for 29 years.

Geeks understand HTML, XML, Ruby On Rails, Joomla, AJAX, CMS and railway timetables. Agency suits understand TV, but not media any longer, which has been a disaster for advertising agencies.

Few UK agency account handlers speak a second language. And they certainly have no idea what Java, Flash, SEO, COBOL, Fortran and a bunch of other stuff means, even if two of these are primeval programing languages.

At heart, account handlers feel stupid when dealing with a geek because they think they ought to know HTML, which is ridiculous. They’ve got geeks to do that for them.

Geeks just get irritable when account handlers fail to provide them with a crystal clear brief. And this they frequently fail to do.

There are very clear and simple rules for both sides, but it helps if, firstly, account handlers and clients write a brief including all the usual stuff like Purpose, Objective, Target Market, Proposition and so on. This should be second nature to account handlers, but, for some odd reason, it seems to desert them when it comes to digital briefs.

Secondly, a solid knowledge of search engine optimisation is very helpful. And this means finding out how Google works. Go to any Technology For Marketing Show, and Google’s own people will cheerfully tell you how it really does work. Or go to’s website and watch a tutorial. Or go to You Tube and type in something like email marketing tips. This will then help you understand why Google can’t read Flash websites. And once you know that, you can reasonably ask your designers why they are insisting on using it.

Finally, it’s worth knowing what does and does not work well in websites. These are not the same as for TV, posters and print.

In an unusually charitable frame of mind – I’ve had a great day with a client – here are ten to bear in mind:

  1. Don’t go mad with colours
  2. White space is powerful
  3. Symmetry is difficult to read
  4. Use fonts designed for websites (Verdana, Tahoma, etc)
  5. Avoid unexpected audio
  6. Size-optimise your pictures
  7. And tag your pictures, too
  8. Use Flash sparingly unless you’re Apple and couldn’t care less about SEO
  9. Optimise your navigation
  10. Check your site with all browsers, but, at a minimum, submit your site to Google for ranking and have very nearly 90% of the UK search market. So, at a minimum, get to know Google and that will establish a basis of mutual respect between you and your geek.

And if that’s just too time-consuming, give me a call, and I’ll help you.