Durham advertising agency McKinney has expanded into New York, where it has added a new 30-person office.
McKinney, far and away the largest ad agency in the Triangle, achieved instant critical mass in the Big Apple by absorbing Cheil USA, the U.S. unit of the corporate parent of both companies – Cheil Worldwide. South Korea-based Worldwide, which has more than 4,000 employees in 30 countries, acquired McKinney in August.
Cheil Worldwide, mindful that foreign agencies typically haven’t fared well here, decided to consolidate its U.S. operations under the McKinney brand, said McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar. That also was behind Cheil Worldwide’s decision to acquire McKinney, he added.
“This is a market that tends to favor homegrown agencies,” Brinegar said.
Cheil USA brings to McKinney two clients: entertainment giant Samsung and Hankook Tires.
“We don’t handle all of Samsung’s work, by any stretch of the imagination,” Brinegar said. “But we’re proud to have them on the roster and look forward to strengthening and building that relationship.”
McKinney will handle digital marketing and nontraditional, consumer-oriented “experiential” campaigns for Samsung.
Cheil Worldwide actually was created by Samsung decades ago to handle its advertising, but it later broke away to become an independent company. Today, Samsung is Cheil Worldwide’s largest client around the world, Brinegar said.
McKinney, which was founded in 1969, has never had an office outside the Triangle until now. Including the New York office, McKinney has a staff of more than 240.
Among its clients are Brown-Forman, Gold’s Gym, Nationwide, Sherwin-Williams, Travelocity, Big Boss Brewing and the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The basic idea behind this is one agency with two doors,” Brinegar said of the New York expansion. “We intend to have a lot of collaboration between the two locations.”
Brinegar stressed that the agency remains committed to Durham, which will remain its headquarters, and expects to grow at both locations.
McKinney has long harbored ambitions for a Madison Avenue office.
“There are a lot of people in New York who would love to work for McKinney but, for a variety of personal reasons, are not able to leave New York to join an agency in North Carolina,” Brinegar said.
In addition, he added, “New York is increasingly a center of technology around emerging media and new ways of bringing people and brands together. Not being physically in that conversation keeps us from being able to spot a lot of things as early as we’d like to.”
All of the employees at McKinney’s New York office are from Cheil USA, with the exception of the newly hired executive creative director for the New York office, Peter Nicholson. Nicholson, previously chief creative officer at JWT New York, reports to McKinney’s chief creative officer, Jonathan Cude.
McKinney generated $37.4 million in revenue in 2011, down 6 percent from 2010.
Brinegar declined to disclose the agency’s 2012 revenue, saying he didn’t know what Cheil’s policy is on such matters. In August, McKinney landed a major new client, Travelocity – a client it lost in 2010 but then regained.
McKinney needs to find a new location for its New York office and, when it does, it plans to hire the Durham firms that designed its headquarters in the American Tobacco Campus – Duda/Paine Architects and Alliance Architecture – to design its new Manhattan digs.
“We want people to feel the same experience at McKinney no matter which door they walk in,” Brinegar said.