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Scott McKay is a Toronto strategist, writer, creative director, patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

This little site is designed to introduce him and his thoughts to the world. (Whether the world appreciates the intro is another matter.) If you'd like to chat, then you can guess what the boxes below are for.



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    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    Entries in baseball (3)


    and here's the pitch

    Um, I seem to have been absent from my digital home for quite some time. For this, Gentle Readers, I humbly apologize.

    It's hard to think of meaningful things to write when your work days are crammed with one thing or another, and are of unpredictable length, and spare time is at a premium. It's been a very busy and productive time, which has seen us work on several RFPs.

    New business pitches are always fun but always tough. Fun because they're the only time you get to approach each potential client's business in the way you think it should be done. It's the ideal opportunity to push things. I like to say in these presentations something to the effect of: "You're going to see things that are wrong, because obviously we haven't worked with your brand standards. But hopefully we can ignore those infractions and focus on the thinking..." For the most part, potential clients are always happy to play "what if" and see their brand and consumer through a new light. Which is good, because that's exactly how you want to work with them.

    But you have to be prepped and confident to do that, and that's what takes the late nights and weekends. Just because you're rolling the dice in a pitch doesn't mean that you're going in with wacky shit; it means that everything has to work together – consumer insight, strategy, creative, media, production. And that takes time, and meetings, and refining the work (okay, going back to square one a few times) and getting everyone's buy in.

    I'm sure there's a tidy but still somehow fresh baseball metaphor for all this that I should be using, but I can't find it at the moment. Instead, thought I'd keep it simple with an incredible image of Bob Gibson, maybe the toughest, most intimidating pitcher there's ever been. He wouldn't hesitate to knock down Don Draper.


    a lesson on usability courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

    Sitting in the stands near Pesky's Pole on Friday night as the Blue Jays were cruising to an extremely pleasant 16-2 throttling of the Red Sox, I was actually a lot more interested in watching Red Sox fans than the game itself.

    One reason? American sports fans are different than Canadian fans; more knowledgeable, more passionate, more vocal, and more likely to be female. (Completely anecdotally, I saw far more women not with men but with other women or on their own at Fenway than I have ever seen at any professional sporting event in Toronto.)

    One of the more interesting groups was a gaggle of jock-ular ex-frat boys in front of us. They were betting each other on the action of every half-inning, talking trash to Jose Bautista and fetching each other beer in an almost continuous stream of motion. The fetching meant that every couple of minutes, one of them would come back from the beverage taps with a couple of cups of beer and manage to jump some seat backs while not spilling a drop of liquid.

    The fact that they could almost always get back into their seats without having their neighbours stand up or move got me thinking about the layout of the seating in that section, as opposed to say the seating at Skydome (sorry, Rogers Centre) or ACC.

    For instance, we were sitting in a row with extra leg room, half again the typical width of a row. This meant that people could easily get by us, and us by other people. And the reason this made a difference to our entire section, and not just our row, was that instead of a few super-wide aisles spaced very far apart (think Skydome) our section was criss-crossed with lots of narrow aisles (maybe less than the width of a seat) about every 10 seats. So it was always fairly easy to get in and out of your seat; beer runs and the subsequent washroom runs (um, let's say "trips" instead) did not involve having 15 people gather up their belongings while you were forced to rub your body parts on theirs as you inched by, praying that they wouldn't spill anything on you because you stepped on their foot. Again, if you've been to a Blue Jays game anytime since 1989, you know what I'm talking about.

    (And given the Red Sox current payroll, I can't imagine that this seating design has a serious impact on revenue, via a loss of seating.)

    I don't know if this is an original feature of Fenway, or a result of the renovations earlier this decade, but it's so simple and so smart that it's breathtaking. It's like the person who thought this up had actually been to a baseball game and realized that people actually do drink and piss during the game.

    It wasn't the apex of the experience or anything, but the seating design was something that allowed us and everyone else to focus on the game and have fun and not resent every idiot who no longer forced us to stand up and try not to spill and block the view of everyone behind us. Which is not true of, say, a game at Skydome.

    Reality should be a basic principle of design, digital, experiential or otherwise. Don't design to what you think people will do, or think they might do.

    Design for what people actually do.


    "you gotta play this game with fear and arrogance"

    What makes Bull Durham such a good movie for me, let alone maybe the best sports movies ever made (sorry, Bill, I don't care what Tim Robbins looks like pitching), is that it's about failure. And there aren't very many movies that deal with that.

    In most movies, the protagonists tend to win at something in the end. And yes, Crash Davis and Annie end up together, but as much as both of them are driven by desire, they're both haunted by their fear of aging and the future. She's still teaching part time, and he'll become a manager at Visalia, and maybe he'll have a shot in the bigs as a manager.

    But it's punk-ass Nuke Laloosh who ends up with what everyone wants – the major league career, the success, a life in The Show.

    When Crash gets the "this is the toughest job a manager has" speech, your heart fails as you watch his life instantly constrict. This man is good at what he does, has a certain competence and a certain reputation, but the time comes and he can no longer do his job. His life is gone. What's next? What purpose can he grasp?

    It's a movie about "meaningless" records like the most home runs ever hit in the minor leagues. It's a movie for the vast majority of us who claw our way to the middle. It's a movie for grown ups who know that the ladder can be kicked out from underneath them. It's about the fear and arrogance we all bring to our jobs every day, aware that we can't be weak but knowing we need to be wary and watchful of everything around us.

    Maybe baseball "will repair our losses and be a blessing to us" but the movie is about people who love something more than it loves them. And that's hard.

    You could look it up.