Brad Brinegar, the long-time chief executive of advertising agency McKinney, has been named CEO for the North American operations of its corporate parent, the South Korean advertising giant Cheil Worldwide.
In addition to his promotion to the newly created position announced Monday, Brinegar will remain chairman and CEO of Durham-based McKinney.
Brinegar said in an interview that he is now responsible for setting the vision, supporting and driving the growth of Cheil’s three North American agencies: McKinney; iris Worldwide, which is based in London but has offices in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Mexico City; and The Barbarian Group, which is based in New York.
Brinegar also said he will be looking for ways that the three agencies “can work together to solve client problems.”
The three agencies combined have nearly 500 employees. McKinney is the largest of the agencies with 211 employees – 170 in Durham and 41 in New York. That’s up 11 percent from 190 employees at the end of last year.
Iris actually has more than 1,000 employees in 15 offices worldwide, but Brinegar’s new duties relate only to the agency’s operations in North America, where it has about 150 workers.
McKinney, which was acquired by Cheil in 2012, expanded to New York the following year by absorbing Cheil USA. But Brinegar said his new role isn’t a precursor to McKinney’s merging with iris and Barbarian.
“I really believe the strength of the agencies is the strength of the individual agency brands,” he said. “Having been here at McKinney building this agency for the last 13 years, I am a fierce believer in agency culture and independent spirit.”
Cheil ranked 15th among the world’s largest advertising agencies with revenue of $845.3 million last year, according to industry publication Advertising Age. The agency, which has 6,000 employees worldwide, acquired ownership stakes in Barbarian in 2009 and purchased a stake in iris in November.
Brinegar will continue to be based in Durham. But he noted that since McKinney added a New York office he has “spent a fair amount of time up there, which is handy because all three agencies have offices in New York.”
McKinney’s revenue exceeded $34 million in 2014, an increase of 6.5 percent, and Brinegar said he expects even more robust growth this year. The agency’s growth last year outpaced the market, which Advertising Age calculates rose 5.4 percent last year.
Indeed, Advertising Age named McKinney one of its “Agencies to Watch” for 2015, noting that last year the agency “won more business from Samsung, joined the Coca-Cola roster” and snared the CarMax account. The publication also noted that McKinney’s campaign for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S featuring actors Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell “stood out in the avalanche of feature-focused device ads.”
Other McKinney clients include Nationwide, Sherwin-Williams, Travelocity, Mentos, ESPN and Sennheiser.
Brinegar said that he doesn’t see his expanded role detracting from McKinney’s operations. Instead, he said, it’s “a real opportunity for other leaders of McKinney to step up into greater responsibility.”
Brinegar also said that McKinney is continuing to add employees, but he declined to disclose the agency’s hiring plans.
Iris’s client roster includes Reebok, Heineken, Saks Fifth Avenue and Diageo. Barbarian, which focuses on digital advertising, boasts clients such as GE, IBM, Google and Pepsi.
McKinney client Samsung also is a client of iris and Barbarian – which is not a coincidence.
Cheil was created by Samsung decades ago to handle its advertising, but it later broke away to become an independent agency. But Samsung has remained Cheil’s largest client.
Brinegar, who has led McKinney since 2002, previously was CEO of Leo Burnett USA. He has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Columbia University.