Creator of the Roaming Gnome Leaves McKinney

By Patrick Coffee 

Durham, North Carolina’s McKinney has already announced several changes in its leadership structure this year, and now those moves have begun to affect its creative team.

Specifically, GCD Philip Marchington has left the agency and GCD Ellen Steinberg has transitioned into a freelance role. Both are longtime McKinney vets, and both had been partners.

The larger changes began in earnest this August, when McKinney’s parent/Samsung holding company Cheil Worldwide named Brad Brinegar as its new North American CEO. Brinegar told Adweek that he would be “very aggressive” in pitching new business as well as raising the profiles of McKinney (where he is still partner, chairman and CEO) and fellow Cheil shops Iris and The Barbarian Group.


His first big internal move was promoting accounts vet Walt Barron to be McKinney’s chief strategy officer and hiring Kerry Fitzmaurice (formerly with kbs+ and 72andSunny) as general manager of its New York office (that news came one year after Adam Levine left Deutsch to become CMO at McKinney in New York).

Marchington had been with the shop for more than 17 years, which is quite a lengthy tenure in the agency world. He is best known as the person responsible for “Roaming Gnome,” which was the agency’s most visible creation for some time and will continue to appear in new campaigns created by Campbell Ewald, which won the review last month and received a visit from company executives who carried said gnome into the shop’s Detroit office.

(On a side note, the idea for the gnome apparently did not come from Amelie, though a Travelocity spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal in 2004 that both ideas did spring from the same source: an Australian prank from the mid-80s.)

Prior to joining McKinney in 1998, Marchington spent time as an art director at W+K Portland and a CD at Ogilvy’s Singapore office. In addition to the Travelocity account, he worked on Audi, Ben & Jerry’s, Lenovo and Samsung.

Steinberg came to McKinney in 2006 after working as an art director and CD at Fallon’s offices in Minneapolis and New York. Sources claim that she has been gradually moving away from her position as partner and GCD for several months but will continue working with the agency in a freelance role moving forward.

The agency has no official statement on Marchington’s departure or the change in Steinberg’s status.