Cheil Worldwide, the Korea-based marketing company owned by Samsung Group, today named Brad Brinegar of McKinney as its first North American CEO in more than 18 months.
Brinegar is an industry veteran who spent more than two decades with Leo Burnett before joining McKinney in 2002. Ownership of the agency has shifted twice since then, with Brinegar leading both the 2008 buyback of McKinney from Havas and its 2012 acquisition by Cheil.
He is also the first to hold the North American CEO position at Cheil since former Wieden + Kennedy executive Buz Sawyer departed in December 2013. Brinegar, however, is quick to point out that his job is very different from Sawyer's, telling Adweek that his predecessor was hired to "move away from trying to build Cheil USA and compete by acquiring a range of strong, independent agencies that were already well-known in this market."
Brinegar's primary job at Cheil North America will be to enhance the visibility of these agencies, which currently include his own North Carolina-based shop as well as New York's Barbarian Group and Iris.
"I think the best way to develop strong reputations is to continue to build on the individual cultures of McKinney, Iris and Barbarian and figure out new ways to work together," Brinegar said. "Whether intentionally or not, Cheil has assembled a group of agencies that actually like each other."
Though his new role is "about setting the vision for what Cheil looks like down the road," in order to strengthen its North American offerings, Brinegar told Adweek that principals at Barbarian and Iris will not report directly to him. His promotion is therefore more a formalization of the company's existing hierarchy than a restructuring of its North American management structure.
Brinegar said Cheil will be "more aggressive" on the international new-business front, because "now we have have a single voice for worldwide pitches" and related projects. He also noted that for future pitches, Cheil "may build teams drawing from resources at each of the agencies, depending on how the market responds."
Cheil's newest chief executive will continue working from his Durham, N.C. home base but will spend more time in New York due to the location of Barbarian and Iris as well as McKinney's Manhattan office, which opened in 2013.
Brinegar said he is "very happy with how [McKinney New York] is developing. The philosophy we used is that it's not a separate office, per se, but an extension of our footprint; we are one agency with two doors."
Regarding future campaigns from the network he now oversees, Brinegar said, "There's no group work at the moment. Each of us is doing everything we can to raise the bar on our own work."