Creative Round Table: Ready for Its Close-Up

Creative Round Table-Ready for Its Close-UpAfter a redesign, enters the crowded fame game

In a recent Duke University study, rhesus monkeys were given a choice between enjoying their favorite drink (cherry-flavored Juicy Juice) or the opportunity to look at images of the dominant "celebrity" monkey of their pack.

The thirsty monkeys chose to ogle the photos of the celebrity monkey among them.

This goes to prove, according to some scientists, that our fascination with Angelina Jolie, Zac Efron and Mr. T (okay, maybe he's not so hot now, but you've got to pity the fool who doesn't believe he'll make a comeback someday) is an innate, primal urge.

Perhaps that's why 4.2 million monkeys - er, humans - visit each month.

Eager to keep its entertainment-obsessed 21- to 34-year-old target demo coming back for more,, which covers celebrities, movies and tv with more respect than the tmzs of the world and more flair than just-the-facts sites like, recently underwent a redesign, turning to creative consultant Fred Sotherland of Braindog for guidance and relying on its own staff to implement the changes.

The team effort basically replaced the clunky site and old-Hollywood look with a cleaner, more modern design and better functionality. They improved search capabilities through the use of the Google Search Appliance, and incorporated interactive applications powered by Pluck technology into the site, supplementing the existing fan forums and allowing readers to create their own blogs, comment on stories, and rate and review movies and TV shows.

"It's 100 percent better than what we had, but it's only 50 percent of the vision. There are a lot more things coming down the pike," Kevin Davis, president and chief operating officer, says of the redesign, noting, "We're moving away from the days when you do a redesign, and then you milk it. You have to constantly improve your site in order to give the users what they expect."

So does the new and improved quench our perhaps hardwired desire to gawk at photos of famous folk and get the scoop on their tv and film projects? omma was unable to assemble a panel of monkeys for their take, but we did ask a trio of digital experts - Deep Focus creative director Steve Isaacs; Shane Rodack, creative director at Fanscape; and Brandcasting Unlimited's Lauren Kozak, who serves as the director of social media for - to speak for humankind.

OMMA: What do you hink of the look of the new compared to the old site? Is there a big difference?

Isaacs: For sure. I lived in Hollywood right off of Hollywood and Vine, so I actually have a big soft spot for that whole art deco look and the tip of the hat to the golden age of cinema they previously had. But I'm sure that they just wanted to divorce themselves from that because it probably felt a little musty. I think the old color palette, with the maroon umber of the header and all of the parchment tones, definitely kind of aged it up. That said, I would have loved to see more almost neo art deco touches in the new design.

Rodack: When I think of Hollywood, I think of sunshine and warm colors, and the new site is definitely on the colder side with the blues. I did like the warmer colors on the other site, but the color scheme they are using now feels more in line with the MySpaces and Facebooks of today. Blue is a very big color in the Web 2.0 world.

Kozak: Visually, it's cleaner in terms of the graphic design, in terms of the overall look and feel. It's got an updated, slicker, shinier look. But there is a heavy prominence of ads, especially on the front page above the fold.
OMMA: You've got to imagine that advertisers like the prominent placement.

Isaacs: They definitely give tons of love to the top banner - they're not cluttering it with anything else. It's well-placed, and it gets a lot of attention; then the 300 by 250 is pretty standard, and there's a little sponsorship in the search bar line that's not really hurting my feelings. This site is definitely ready for a roadblock.

Rodack: I feel kind of blah about banners in general. They serve their purpose, but if they could do some fun sponsored stories, features like that, I think that's going to go much further than a banner would.

Kozak: When you have a site about products, which movies and tv shows are, you don't need banner ads. There are so many cooler ways to incorporate advertising. People go there to read about movies and dvds, things that people spend money on naturally, so there is no reason that they can't have sponsored features. There are just so many creative opportunities for skins and advertorials and featured content.

OMMA: What do you think of the opportunities for fan interactivity?

Kozak: Integrating social features is a challenge all around for sites like this, but they are making strides. The forums on the site have always been active, and they're still active. When people talk about social media nowadays, they forget about forums. I also like the fan-site section, but it doesn't help fans build better sites. It would be really cool if they could offer tools to help the fans catch up. I work with a lot of the sites in their fan site network, and the design, the features, everything is stuck in 1999.

OMMA: How does compare to entertainment-oriented sites like and that are
associated with print publications?

Rodack: From a design point of view, I'd say they are all pretty much in line. had the least amount of scrolling, so I'd probably give the edge to them there. But when it comes to content, you can't beat People magazine for their exclusive interviews.

Creative Round Table: Ready for Its Close-UpOMMA: How would you rate the redesign of overall?

Kozak: They do a great job of featuring a lot of content and being able to prioritize a lot of stuff. I know that's a huge challenge.

Isaacs: They deserve tons of credit for bringing the redesign into a whole new space, and I think a lot of people will enjoy it in comparison to the old site, which did feel claustrophobic.

Rodack: I think they did a fine job. It's hard to condense the large amount of content they have into a really digestible format, and they did a really good job organizing everything on that front page. I'd like to see newer technologies used to organize this content, but there is so much great stuff on this site for entertainment fans that you can't go wrong. If you want to find what's hot right now, it's all on the front page, and you don't have to dig deep for it.

2 comments about "Creative Round Table: Ready for Its Close-Up".
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  1. Todd Havens from The Visionaire Group, January 9, 2009 at 8:49 p.m.

    A great surprise to see profiled here! Good work going on over there at that site.

  2. Patrick Toland from TBG Digital, Inc., January 12, 2009 at 8:27 p.m.

    What a refreshing design...

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