Researching at The FWA

From the In-Sync Challenge to the David Gary Studio the FWA has covered lots of amazing flash sites since its debut in June of 2000.

The FWA is the most recognized interactive award program and inspirational portal on the web; I thought that it would be the perfect place to do a bit of social research.

My goal for this study was to find out what kind of audience these amazing sites were being built for and what kinds of results are returned from the millions of dollars being spent to create these sites?

It occurred to me that I would have to examine each and every site on the FWA and frankly I didn’t have that much time dedicated to resolving a curious itch, so in lieu of my hectic schedule I decided to utilize some of the more powerful features of the site and sort by Site Of The Month winners.

FWA's SOTM winners

I figured that the winners of the SOTM would be a good place to find some of the answers I was looking for.

The list was considerably shorter and much less intimidating to tackle, I took a first glance at the screen and realized that I needed to see every one of the sites in front of me in order to make sense of things.

Luckily the FWA site expands to any size so if you have a massive screen you can simply stretch your browser to the limit and see a beautifully scaled site.

Now that I had all of these amazing sites in front of me I realized after a few minutes that a good number of them, 46 of them to be exact, were sites belonging to agencies, personal portfolios and students which meant that the remaining 35 SOTM winners were actual companies.

It made sense that the design studios and aspiring students were producing the best work.

Corporations blowing their budgets

Over the past few years corporations have been spending obscene amounts of money on interactive websites.

The advertising industry has been redefined by the power of the internet and its ability to reach target masses.

Many advertising agencies rely heavily on the talents of smaller interactive firms to develop these sites in conjunction with more traditional ad campaigns such as TV, radio and print.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how websites are now the main focus of ad campaigns, corporations are seeing more bang for their buck by creating rich media websites as the anchor of a campaign rather than just a side thought as it has been previously.

Target Audiences

So who is looking at these sites?

How do they know about them?

How effective are they in creating brand awareness and resulting in more sales?

These are the questions that remained to be answered. So I took my search a step further and started looking at some of the companies that had won the prestigious SOTM award.

Companies like Altoids, Phillips, Nike, Absolut, Ford, Vodafone and Comcast were all names that many people would recognize without even thinking.

These companies have become a mainstay in our daily lives and that have successfully turned their brands into cultural icons. These were the remaining sites that had won the SOTM award.

International Brands

These international brands, cultural icons, are all represented by big prestigious agencies that have been handling these accounts forever.

These are the agencies that have been creating memorable commercials, radio and print ads that have become etched in all of our minds and that have formed our culture and society as consumers.

Yet almost all of these agencies use smaller shops like Firstborn Multimedia, Freedom Interactive, Domani, and other small interactive firms out there to create these high impact sites.

I compare it to the Pope letting Rosie O’Donnell get up and represent the Vatican’s stance on gay marriage. I will just leave it at that.

Nike for example creates highly interactive sites for almost every product they sell and every one of the various sites is drastically different than the next.

They all feature rich beautiful imagery, fast and intuitive interface, strong brand presence and an almost dreamlike environment that would have any sneaker lover stuck to the site for hours.

Our cultural icons are finally awakening, you can almost feel the Nike swoosh right by your ear or experience the wacky scenes created by Altoids, feel the shiny white surface of Phillips and dive right into the branded worlds of Absolut.

So it got me thinking, who are the people going to these sites?

Brand Groupies?

They are the dedicated followers of any brand, they are the ones who worship the logo, who bow down to the typeface and who would recognize their favorite brands anywhere and in any language, they are the believers.

As consumers we tend to obsess over the brands we buy, we identify ourselves with those brands and create our personas around the brand.

They shape our culture and help form our social circles, habits, hygiene, and even form our views on issues such as politics, religion, and sex.

The internet has become a place where our ideas come to life, where we can completely immerse ourselves in our favorite brand websites, music, videos, and information.

A New Level of Branding

It has provided companies the ability to take their brand message to the next level by providing entertainment and content that features as well as add value to products and services.

History does repeat itself and similar to the infancy of television where companies sponsored variety shows that featured brands in the show and show titles; now the internet is a place companies can unleash the persona of the brand and let the faithful come and immerse themselves.

So who is going to these sites?

Eventually everyone!

About the Author, Craig Elimeliah
(former) Producer, Firstborn

Craig Elimeliah (former) Producer at Firstborn Multimedia. He is a native New Yorker who started his design career in Jerusalem. Craig has a background in design, technology, project management, entrepreneurship and sales.

When Craig is not producing projects for Firstborn he spends his time with his kids, writing, painting and cooking.

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