Most marketing and advertising agencies are *terrible* at understanding how the internet works – they think that flash elements and print-like approaches are what should drive the projects when the exact opposite is the case.
For online effectiveness in terms of search and usually also for users you want easy navigation, few graphic elements, and most importantly a well-optimized site. The more the biz is online focused the more you want optimization over good looks.
Most SEO sophisticated places are poor at design, and many SEO whiz kids can’t be convincing enough to steer people away from the good looking sites designers tend to do. Yet those good looking sites that sacrifice searchability for beauty should be avoided.
In my opinion the people who say “hey, we can make it look super good and glitzy AND be very well optimized” should be listed online in an “Americas least wanted” list of web people.
Of course you can make sites look “OK” and have great optimization, but it’s impossible to have the classy high falutin’ feel you get from rich, large images and flashy elements and do a great optimization. Disney-like sites can afford this mistake (I think it’s still stupid of them), but most businesses count on good optimization if they are in a competitive field where many companies are trying for many related terms.
There are probably exceptions to this rule of great looks vs great optimization but I think they are *extremely* uncommon. The best simple way to describe it simply is that flash and images almost alway look better than text and almost always lead to inferior optimization than text and hyperlinked text elements.