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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 feedback (4)


    and don't tug on *that* either

    A long time ago I wrote about the fact that writing is like composing; change one word and you can change everything. Even if most people can't articulate why the words feel like they mean something different, even if they can't actually see that there is a difference, it's enough that I know and feel that there's a difference, and I'm going to try my damnedest to articulate that change so you understand it.

    I forget sometimes that the same is true visually. When it comes to the web (as everything else) there are rules of design and alignments and cues that actually matter; it sounds goofy to say, but those details are the difference between creating something that users know is trustworthy, and something that just doesn't feel quite right. And that's not a feeling you ever want users to have.

    When those details are working right, you actually don't notice them; you're simply using and enjoying the site as you want. You're focusing on what you want to do.

    When they're not right, when they haven't been considered, or have been forgotten in the clench of compressed timelines and budgets, you become conscious of the process of using the site, and vaguely critical of it. You've been taken out of yourself and what you want to do.

    And you unravel everything that you've been trying to do.



    being honest is probably a good idea

    When I was in the trenches, I hated it when someone told me that my copy wasn't good enough. I really do want to please my clients and bosses, and knowing that one of them isn't happy with something I've done is a real kick in the ass. When they tell it to your face it wakes you up and makes you listen. (Or turns you right off, but that's another problem.)

    As bad as that is, though, there's worse.

    When someone says they love what you've done, then it turns out they didn't.

    They may say great, super, bang on. Or they may quietly smile and nod. Either way, the bad thing is that they don't communicate what they really think and feel about the work until later, when it comes as a shock and causes a lot more lingering ugliness than is necessary. And it's critical that the news that your work is off-track come face to face -- it has real impact that way, and there's all kinds of facial and physical nuances that get conveyed as well.

    I've heard of clients who just wanted to be nice to the creatives, who didn't want to be mean. But they ended up frustrating the teams involved, and tended not to be satisfied with the work they ended up with.

    I know of bosses who just couldn't be open, who would take the work away and fiddle themselves, thinking it was quicker. But they ended up with pissed off team who left.

    I know of a suit who wouldn't be open with creatives, but who would complain about their work to the client. But for some reason that person ended up jumping from agency to agency every 14 to 18 months...

    Client or agency, you owe it to yourself to be honest with your partners. And that's what we are. Or at least, what we can be.


    why would I ask for a feedbag?

    When you get past the experience, the bags under the eyes and the drinking problem, there's another difference between a junior creative and a senior one.

    There are a surprising number of juniors who want to hide their work until it's absolutely perfect, before they reluctantly get feedback.

    Most the senior creatives I've worked with, and all the good ones I can think of, at a fairly early point in the execution process want feedback on what they're doing. They'll drop by or grab me and talk through the direction they're going, they'll take me through what they have, and where they think it's working or not. They know there's value in getting feedback earlier rather than later, before you've gone down too many blind alleys. Because at an agency, the creative is a process. With clients, account people and production, nothing is finished until it's in the consumer's hands.

    Juniors seem to have wait until what they're doing is perfect before they can open up to accept "judgement." (Not that that's what feedback is, I'm just trying to guess at the psychology.) If you're new in a job, I can see how you don't want your boss seeing potential vulnerability. You don't want to be seen as asking for his ideas. You want to come to him with outstanding ideas fully formed, ready to wow clients. And I suppose there's also the tendency not to want to "bother" the creative director with, say, creative. All I can say is bother away. Even when I don't have time, I should make the time. It's my job after all.

    I'm not saying you should seek input before you have an idea of where you want to go. I need to see something after all. I just don't want juniors wasting a lot of time on polishing and refining before they know it's the right direction.

    Anyway, this impulse to hold things back is not a useful trait, and it's one that we try to discourage by encouraging not formal checkpoints, but informal drop-ins.

    I understand the impulse. When I'm writing, I don't want anyone standing over my back, I don't anyone questioning the process I need to go through to get the necessary end result. But once I get the work to a place where my point is clear – and that point is well before I consider it polished, let alone finished – then I do want those other eyeballs. In fact I'll actively bother people until they've given me some sort of feedback, anything so I have a sense that my work is doing what I want it to do.


    his name is earl

    So, even though it's a completely different business, under completely different circumstances, this is pretty much what's it's like to get feedback about creative from people who aren't creative. Earl Pomerantz is one of those guys who's written a pantload of shows that have made comedy history. (And he's a Toronto boy to boot.) His glimpse of sympathy, maybe even insight, into the lives of the execs he was sitting with and getting feedback from is really what I'm trying to get at in this little blog.

    A 19th century German playwright Friedrich Hebbel once pointed us in the right direction. He wrote, "In a good play, everyone is right."