Egotist Briefs: Mike McKay

By Egotist / /

Mike McKay made a name for himself here in SF before moving to the lesser half of the state to make even better advertising. Now he’s back as ECD of BBDO San Francisco and he spoke with the San Francisco Egotist about everything from how the two halves of CA differ and what makes for great creative to the first thing he looks for when hiring creative people.

You’ve been back in SF for 6 months now. How do you feel about the level of creativity that San Francisco has to offer?
San Francisco is always surprising the world with new things. From music to art to stunning digital innovations. A lot of creative people flow in and out of this city. It’s a great place to be inspired.

You were here at Goodby, then went down to SoCal for Saatchi and now you’re back to SF. Can you compare the two cities from an advertising perspective?
I suppose there are more agencies in L.A., and those agencies are generally larger. There are far fewer digital shops in Los Angeles, and far more in San Francisco. Historically, the agencies in San Francisco have been smaller, more boutique. But there’s a lot of creative talent in both cities.

What do you think makes for a great creative environment and what specific things do you do at BBDO to foster creativity?
I think when creatives have more ownership over their projects, it fosters better work. When you have too many creatives working on an assignment, it can get messy and frustrating for everyone. It’s like when you see a group of kids huddled around a soccer ball – everyone is trying very hard, but no one seems to score. Give your stars the ball and let them do their thing.

Talk about the craft of copywriting. What are some of the most important things that make up a really great piece of copy?
In the traditional space, the leaner your copy the better. Be sparse and punchy with your words. In video, let each carefully chosen word breath. If your piece is overwritten, people tend to stop listening and reading. Writing for social is much different. It’s literally a dialogue between two people. It’s a kinder, more one-on-one approach. No hard sell. It’s about getting consumers to hang out with your brand. The tone of the writing should feel like you’re having a conversation with someone over a cup of coffee.

With the rise of social media, there’s a growing segment of marketers who believe that the “big idea” is dead – that it’s not about single campaign ideas but more of an ongoing conversation. Where do you stand on the “Big idea”?
Brands need to stand for something in consumer’s minds. And a notion should be able to live anywhere. Whether it’s delivered in a big, bold campaign in the form of a big idea. Or gently shared while a brand is conversing with users online. I think marketers should do both. I suspect most consumers don’t have have time to engage in multiple brand conversations everyday. People are pretty busy. So campaign ideas are needed as well. Ideally, they should supplement each other and give the consumer the same message orfeeling about a brand. And a great campaign idea can create an enormous amount of conversation.

Beyond the basic checkboxes on a resume, what do you look for when it comes to adding people to your team?
I look for great portfolios first and foremost. I don’t care what agency they worked at before – what school they went to. It’s all about their work.

What recent idea makes you say, “Damn, I wish I’d done that.”
Jay-Z Decoder. I love that idea.