McKinney’s nearly seven-year run as the lead creative agency for insurance company Nationwide has come to an end.
Durham-based McKinney, by far the region’s largest advertising agency with more than 200 employees, was notified last week that the insurance company was dropping it. The loss of the Nationwide account is expected to trigger layoffs at the agency, but it’s unclear how many employees will be affected.
Nationwide’s decision to drop McKinney follows the Ohio-based insurance company’s appointment of a new chief marketing officer last year. New marketing executives often prefer to bring in a new agency.
McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar said that he was proud of the creative work the agency did for Nationwide.
“It was a seven-year relationship in which we forged a great partnership and did great work and helped their brand grow,” Brinegar said. He also noted that the relationship lasted far longer than the industry-wide average of three years.
“They have made some strategic decisions and leadership changes that caused them to make this decision,” Brinegar said. “This is the third CMO we’ve had in the time that we worked with them and clearly he has a different set of priorities than his predecessors.”
Because Nationwide was one of McKinney’s larger clients, Brinegar said, losing the business “will have some impact on our staffing. “I don’t know what that impact is yet. It’s too early to tell.”
“The one thing I do know,” Brinegar added, “is that the market is going to be thrilled to have access to extraordinary talent. When people leave McKinney, they almost always leave for really awesome jobs. I think there are going to be a lot of people in the industry who are going to be happy to know some people are going to be available that wouldn’t have been otherwise.”
“Nationwide works with a number of creative agencies to support our business needs,” Joe Case, a spokesman for the insurer, wrote in an email. “We recently informed McKinney of our intent to move in another direction regarding our creative work.”
Case’s statement also lauded McKinney’s work in the development of the “Join the Nation” campaign that was launched in 2012. “Our brand is healthier because of McKinney’s efforts,” he wrote.
Last year Nationwide triggered an uproar on social media and elsewhere with its commercial that aired during the Super Bowl featuring a young boy lamenting he would never learn to ride a bike, get married, etc., because he died in an accident. That spot, which the company said was aimed at starting a conversation about making homes safer to protect children, was created by Ogilvy & Mather in New York.
Nationwide also aired a better-received commercial during the 2015 Super Bowl, a lighthearted one featuring actress Mindy Kaling, that was McKinney’s work.
McKinney, which is owned by South Korean advertising giant Cheil Worldwide, was named by Advertising Age as one of its “Agencies to Watch” in 2015 thanks to its business wins – including snaring the CarMax account, landing additional work from Samsung, and joining the roster of agencies that work with Coca-Cola.