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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 email (3)


    the result of this chicken-and-egg dilemma?

    I know I've posted about this before, but the fractured reality of all things marketing was really brought to life in a recent chat I had with a senior leader at a not-for-profit organization.

    This group is relatively established and successful; they've had growth, and some success in getting funding for interesting and effective programs. That said, their funding continued to be unpredictable, and they'd also had some layoffs. 

    Being a curious marketing weasel, I was interested in her marketing plans. Turns out they had a social media manager working internally, which was encouraging, and an agency doing a pro-bono awareness TV spot once a year.

    What about individual fundraising? I asked. Awareness and engagement are great, but at some point you have to translate those things into real cash money. 

    We can't afford an individual donor program, she said.

    Her group accepted individual donations, of course, and whipped up a newsletter which encouraged giving, but there was no systematic outreach to people who'd raised their hands. (Which I already knew, being one of those occasional donors.) Other than that, they relied on large corporate and government grants, a few individual major donors, and asks at their events. 

    The reality is that building an individual fundraising program using email and direct mail is just too expensive for many organizations, since they'd have to build the infrastructure to do it, and it would take too long to pay off. Her hope was that they could continue to grow in their typical two-steps-forward, one-back way until one day such a program would be possible.

    And, while I want to write that this is slightly unbelievable, when I think about it, most companies in Canada these days (whatever their relationship to profit) are having a problem building relationships that pay off. It is a big cost, and there so many media channels to cover off, let alone understand; the relatively small economies of scale in this country can't support that kind of investment for long enough before seeing real ROI. It's understandable that many managers look at that chicken-and-egg scenario and decide it's not worth it.

    For me, however, the problem with neglecting CRM (which is of course what we've been talking about) is that those emails and DMs help keep people feeling involved, and keep dollars coming in. Awareness and engagement are pointless if something like CRM isn't keeping those one-on-one relationships (forgive the pun) solid and fresh.


    once again, I find vague relevance to digital in my undergraduate career

    Somewhere in The Great Code, Frye tells the story of an Assyrian king who cuts up a Bible laughing at how fragile and impermanent it is – being made out of mere paper and ink – while saying his great stone palaces will last forever.

    The twist, as Frye says, is that the fragile paper and ink document has lasted three thousand years and had an immeasurable impact on human affairs, while the Assyrian palaces (and the king who built them) vanished long ago

    Thanks to email shout outs from Mr. Lieberman and reader S.M. (not me, I promise), I am once again reminded that actual humans (as opposed to Googlebots) read this little blog thing. And that these tiny pixels of thought can live on for quite some time.

    And that's just weird.

    Forgive me for rehashing what should be blindingly obvious, but it's not always apparent when you're blogging that you're writing for an audience. At the level of Atrios or Yglesias of course you know that everything you write will get dozens or hundreds of comments, with viewpoints of all varieties, and senses of humour which may not mesh with yours.

    At the lower levels there's a disassociative quality to blogging. I get a constant but small stream of traffic, and occasionally comments from co-workers. But for the most part I find myself writing for a hypothetical audience. You never know who's going to stumble upon your little abode months or years after you've written something, or what they're looking for, or why. And without the constant flow of traffic or commenting, you do feel a bit isolated.

    (Twitter is slightly different, in that most people I know are barraged by tweets and don't have time to look back, let alone keep up. So there's *slightly* less sense of permanence. But it also means if you don't get a reaction immediately, you're not getting one. Unless you're Bruce Arthur, there can be a similar sense of isolation to it.)

    Yes, I know my co-workers read this thing, and I'm aware that clients, prospective clients or competitors may read it, so I'm pretty considered in what I write. Blogging in anger or while drunk would be far worse than emailing while in either condition, and I have *always* regretted such moments with Entourage.

    But recently discovering that clients actually have read this blog gave me a quick moment of panic, and a healthy dose of paranoia. It makes me glad that, from day one, I've made an effort to be more thoughtful and considered than I am in real life.

    In spite of the fact that they're nothing more than electrons and photons, the words you write in this here Internet live on. Will they always have an impact? Maybe not. But don't ever think they that they can't.


    I'm sure they cover their billboards in brown wrapping paper, too

    Got yet another email from the National Advertising Awards folks yesterday about the annual Young Creative, Interactive and Direct contest. It's a great and fun opportunity to do some blue sky work, maybe win an award, maybe even go to Cannes.

    But what gets me is that, when it comes to really basic marketing, these folks have no idea what they're doing.

    The email they send is a jpeg. That's it, that's all. An image, sitting in the preview pane of my Entourage. Or rather, it would be if Entourage automatically downloaded it. But as we all know, Entourage doesn't.

    So what I see in my preview pane is this:

    Yeah, that'll get my attention.

    (So, by some stretch of the imagination, maybe I do click on "download picture." Maybe I finally see their clever creative. There's no link for me to click on, even though they apparently want me to do something. There's just NAA's clever print ad, sitting there like it's 1996.)

    I tried to tell them this last year – that they needed to send something with at least some text, something designed for how email is used in this modern century, and got a nice email back saying that they valued my input. Yeah, sure.

    In this day and age there's no excuse for ignoring an everyday marketing reality, something we're all aware of as users when it comes to the medium of email. NAA isn't the only organization that's guilty of wasting time, money and energy like this, but they're one that should know better.