Museum plunges into Deepend for facelift

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) has dropped web design company Spike and signed a $200,000 sponsorship deal with multimedia agency Deepend Sydney to re-vamp its website and attract customers.

The MCA ended a four-year, $200,000 contract with Spike in May this year, citing "no particular reasons" other than creative issues.

"Things come to an end," said Christopher Snelling, marketing director of the MCA. He felt Spike's work "lacked the sense of layering, interaction and quirkiness" that Deepend could provide. "(Deepend) are just different," he said.

Deepend has been signed for 12 months to implement the MCA's web strategy, after which time the parties would review if their relationship was "working out", said Matt Griffin, managing director of Deepend. The deal, negotiated over two months, will generate over $250,000 in revenue for Deepend, Griffin estimated.

Deepend will redesign MCA's site to include chat-rooms and interactive galleries to meet increasing customer demand for more in-depth information and interaction with artists and curators.

The MCA would also consider offering online credit and debit payment options under the re-vamp.

However, Snelling said e-tailing may not take off for the MCA due to its lack of branded products. The MCA will try to lure niche buyers by expanding its e-tail suite with Australian-focused in-house publications, children's games and up-market goods like European digital cameras, he said.

Snelling expects the site's overhaul to double online traffic, which he said had plateaued at 150,000 users per month in December. Forty per cent of the traffic is international.

Both companies conceded they felt some pressure to deliver on their ambitions for the new site, saying their project was under the microscope of the art fraternity and the wider public. "There is obviously a high expectation on any site that has such a high design public profile. I'm sure it will be heavily scrutinised," said Griffin.

On the other hand, Snelling said museums were "unusual animals", explaining there were complex issues of content balance and copyright at play. "There's got to a be a number of ways of dealing with artists in the online space. Replicating art online must be balanced with good information. We will need to tease people into getting online," he said.

The new site will be hosted by Telstra Big Pond. It is expected to be launched in September.

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