Product Design
  • Interview Excerpt: Pat McKay, Freelance Copywriter/Creative Director, Seattle

    Check out some great work from Pat McKay.

    PM: [ … ]

    WS: So that was my next question: How important is the finish? Do you think sketches can be enough? Or do you think you have to show finished ads?

    PM: Yeah it’s a funny thing. Obviously we would be able to see an idea off a sketch. But in a way, the people who get away with doing sketches are when you’re in a situation where your work kind of precedes you, that people know enough about how you work and what you’ve done. After you’ve worked in an agency for a while, and they get to know you, you can sketch out an idea and they can see what the idea is, and they kind of know the process you’ll go through from there. But when you’re a student, your work doesn’t precede you. That is your work. That sketch is your work. So if it’s a good idea, that’s fine but it’s just like, face it, there are just so many books out there that have good ideas and are really tight, execution-wise. So you should really try to avoid doing sketches.

    But, that being said, if you have good ideas, I wouldn’t be afraid. It’s going to be hard to get a job on sketches—really hard—but you can get some great feedback on sketches and it can be part of the process. I wouldn’t be afraid to take sketches and put them in front of smart people that you would like advice from.

    But, overall, sketches are not the best idea for a final book. Maybe it could be part of the process. But as with advertising and all creative fields, I would certainly look twice if a book came in, and it was 100 sketches. And they were all really good ideas. And it was sort of like his or her way in. If someone wanted to do something completely different and said, “I’m not going to execute any of it, I’m just going to have loads of ideas, and that’s going to be the thing I want to leave in that person’s mind with my book.” Something like that could work. Sometimes with a book it’s good to have an idea. An overall idea, and sometimes that can really get you noticed.

    WS: Do you think long-copy ads are important?

    PM: Yeah. I think you should still have a piece of copy. It might feel a little bit old fashioned nowadays to have a long-copy print ad because I’m not sure that it’s really a reflection of what kind of work really is floating around now. Probably the opportunity for that is somewhere nontraditional or on a website. But show an ability to write. When I look at writers’ books, for me as a writer, I really want to see the craft. And I want to get a sense of their voice. I think it’s really important.

    And then also, even with headlines, I think it’s good to have. Again, it doesn’t have to be a headline campaign—a headline print campaign—but it should be some campaign with headlines because I want to see if they can spit out lines, because there’s a real process to it. And I’ve seen good books where I see that the writer should…and I’ll always tell them: “You needed to write 200 more lines, because you’ve only got one funny one.” Or, “You’ve only got one that really feels like you went through a process.” I guess I want to see that they have a writing process because that’s what writers do—we have processes. Sometimes it’s in your head, sometimes, like for me, I have to sort of write everything out and then scrunch it back down. When I was doing headline campaigns, I literally would write 200 lines to get 10 and I had to do it all by hand. Not everybody works like that, but I would like to see evidence of a writing process because you never know when you’re going to really need someone to be good with that stuff. That’s my take on it.

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