Ad Age: A List of the Worst Agency Websites for IPhones and IPads

Attention Agencies: You provide a sweet target for your competition if you don’t practice what you preach and aren’t doing for yourself what you recommend for clients.

The McKinney agency, Durham, NC, recently created some positive press for themselves while creating a firestorm around some of the biggest advertising agencies websites.

Advertising Age, provided with McKinney’s review of agency’s websites, recently published the article, The World’s Worst Agency Websites (For IPhones and IPads).

David Teicher, for Advertising Age writes, “McKinney Art Director Nick Jones stumbled upon an unfortunate, albeit not surprising, byproduct of that: Some of the biggest agency websites are built on Adobe’s Flash and thus entirely inaccessible from iPhones and iPads.

Now, it’s probably no coincidence that Mr. Jones just happened to discover, and call attention to, this industry-wide failing, concurrent with McKinney’s own new site launch, which is built, according to Nick, so that you can “Swipe it on your iPad or click it in Internet Explorer.”

But the point remains: How can any agency expect to build out an emerging media practice and secure business in the growing mobile and tablet market, if their own mobile sites are unusable?

McKinney’s tactic unleveled the playing field in their favor creating a positive buzz, differentiating themselves from their competitors and generating significant traffic for their newly launched website:  From a new business perspective, they deserve kudos!

I’m sure the agencies that made McKinney’s list are already underway making the necessary changes to their sites.

Here are 10 full service and even digital agencies to make the list:

  1. TWBA
  2. Firstborn
  3. Leo Burnett
  4. BBH
  5. Fallon Worldwide
  6. Wieden + Kennedy
  7. Mono
  8. R/GA
  9. BBDO
  10. Arc Worldwide

Reaching out to bloggers like myself on behalf of your agency:

I get invitations to review lots of agency stuff daily and I can’t respond to them all. Many of these emails are way to long for me to even consider reading.

Stephanie Sumner, VP/Director of Business Development for McKinney, did a splendid job in the way she reached out to me by email. She didn’t ask me for anything, but provided just enough information that would peak my interest.Her note was personal, concise copy with links to the relevant info. She made it easy for me to review and respond.

It takes more work to be brief but when you are the one inundated with emails it is much appreciated. Stephanie did the work on my behalf.

Kudos also to Mckinney’s art director, Nick Jones. Way-to-go in creating new business opportunities for your agency.

Additional articles regarding ad agency promotion:


About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. The Whole Bolivian Army… nice!

  2. Call me old-fashioned but in my opinion, slamming the competition is not the way to build your own business. The point about flash-dependent sites in the agency world is well-taken — but not a point well-made. (And while I see PR agencies escaped notice I will mention that our DeVries site is now mobile-friendly and anti-flash. PHEW.)

  3. I thought what McKinney did was interesting – but it doesn’t actually look at what works and what doesn’t, it just shows a screengrab.

    Just because W+K’s page is listed on McKinney’s site does not mean that it doesn’t work on iPad or iPhone, in fact far from it. Look again at the screenshot and there’s no ‘download flash’ link. Our site has been optimized for those platforms for some time. Just try it.

    Also from memory R/GA’s site is also mobile optimized – again, just look more closely.

    If you’re going to pull together a list of offenders it’d be worth checking that they are actually offenders rather than just agencies who happen to have a site. Otherwise we’re all guilty.

    Thanks for caring.

  4. Iain,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My post was written from the perspective of how McKinney used this to generate buzz and traffic for their agency. Your questions are valid and perhaps Nick Jones at McKinney could provide a response to them.

  5. Thanks for your input Stephanie.

    When I read the Ad Age article I didn’t get the impression that it was a slam against the competition. McKinney, after all, was creating their new site and the previous site probably wasn’t mobile friendly.

    I think it was a great wake-up call to all of us. I’m sure a lot of agencies were busy making changes to their web sites as did DeVries.

    You can be sure that clients and your competitors will be checking you out online (i.e. JetBlue tests the social media credibility of ad agencies vying for its account )

  6. Iain is right, the iPad versions of both W+K and R/GA are great. I commend them for not watering down the tablet versions. W+K is possibly the only agency on the list whose full site is accessible from an iPhone (R/GA doesn’t offer me a way out of the limited mobile version though confident it would look/work nicely so I’m hoping they add it). I included them both (and it’s the same reason I included McKinney) because they helped illustrate how we still assume people with phones don’t want the full experience when they visit a website. We know their smartphones are more powerful than the desktops we were using when we made Flash sites in 1999 and have better resolution than any standard-def TV so let’s stop assuming they’re there for the phone number and our mission statement. I have to say, W+K even went so far as to encode their videos to be playable on iOS so they’re LIGHT YEARS ahead of most. Iain, sorry you got lumped in there with the rest of us but I meant no harm when I compiled screengrabs. It was research to help internally pitch the idea of making the first agency site that worked great with a mouse but even better on a mobile/touch device. Making it public when we launched said site was to document this moment so we could all look back and remember when everybody, including the biggest and best names in the business, underestimated and undervalued the mobile web. The billions that will be spent on mobile ads in the coming years won’t be limited to apps (despite what Apple and the rest of the device makers and app-store owners want us to believe). I’m a firm believer in the power and importance of the web to level playing fields and facilitate discussions between lowly art directors and Global ECDs. It’s no different on the laptop I’m typing on than it is on the iPhone next to me. How could we have done this inside the Yelp app? Long live the web!

  7. Hey Nick, can’t believe you would have typed all that on the iPhone next to you 😉

    Mobile is great and will be greater, but we still give different uses to different devices!

  8. This is so true. It seems ironic, but completely necessary for advertisting agencies to advertise for themselves! I worked once for sign company that didn’t have their own sign by the road. It silly, but true.

  9. Some Web Designer says:

    I have a hard time taking this article seriously, especially when they can’t even get their links correct to the websites that are being discussed. wtf is the whole bolivian army? I think they meant TBWA\Chiat\Day?

    There is a proper tool for every job, and if a company wants a rich media experience for their online presence, there is no better tool than Flash at this point. The cross browser compatibility is the best reason to use still use Flash. HTML5/CSS3/Javascript is buggy across all the browsers, and it still won’t replace everything that flash can do on it’s own. Also, some companies may not want you looking at some of their high quality images on the tiny screen of a phone.

    In addition, their websites may have elements that interact with mouse position on screen, eg.

    There is no mouse on a touch screen interface, so it doesn’t even make sense to optimize it for such a thing.

    Don’t get me wrong, having a mobile presence is definitely a good idea, and probably should not use flash so that the site is available to iDevices. But you’ve got to keep in mind that desktop sites won’t translate to mobile devices without some tweaking, whether or not they use flash.

  10. Cold calling is like me calling someone and hoping they are thirsty for a glass of cold water. Thirsty people will come to you with the help of search engines. Your time is better spend on other business matters, like meeting people in person and being concerned and involved with their work.

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