Using print advertising to drive traffic to online properties is a great example of integrated marketing.

Except when the consumers can’t access the site.

Like millions of others I commute to work in London every day, and like hundreds of thousands of those commuters I pick up at least one of the free London papers on most days.

Last Friday it was The London Paper and in amongst the snippets of news & pictures of celebrities was a Swatch ad.

Swatch's Valentine's Day ad

It was promoting a competition to win a romantic weekend in Paris and, with Valentines Day fast approaching, I thought that I’d enter.

Seeing as I was on the train and wouldn’t be likely to remember to cut out & post back an entry form, I decided to use the other entry method available and go to the website, swatchlovesquad.com.

Imagine my surprise, and annoyance, when I loaded the site up on my Blackberry only to find that due to the fact that the site was entirely in Flash I couldn’t view it.

I had the same problem on my mobile as well (despite the fact that it’s a Nokia N73 and so reasonably advanced).

It struck me as very bizarre that an ad in a paper which is, I would imagine, primarily read by people on the train was promoting a site that those self-same people would be unable to view until they got home and logged on to a PC.

When I got home I decided to try to replicate the likely actions of my fellow commuters.

Anyone who has taken a train outside of the rush-hour will know that most people don’t take their papers with them when they get off, and so most people trying to find the site would be likely to do so using a search engine.

I’d like to say that I was surprised when I was unable to find the site using a whole host of different search terms, but in fact I wasn’t.

This should be a cautionary tale on the dangers of allowing form to take precedence over function; to allow style to beat substance.

When you consider what the site is trying to do (capture competition entries; allow users to view a video, send messages & buy products) there is absolutely no need for it to be in Flash.

Flash is great – it makes things look amazing, and can be used in ways that make HTML seem positively prehistoric.

But there are time when it simply isn’t appropriate, and a website that is aimed at commuters is certainly one of those.

So next time your design agency is suggesting an all Flash site, think about who it’s aimed at, what it needs to do, and whether a site that will be inaccessible to anyone accessing the internet via a mobile, as well as to the majority of the population that uses search engines as default browsers is really the best way to go.

And then ask whether there isn’t some way to blend Flash & functionality.

Related posts:

Six ways to improve online experience

10 reasons why your website sucks