McKinney Exodus Continues: COO Departs After 20+ Years to Join Human Rights Campaign

By Patrick Coffee 

More executive-level employees have left McKinney following the loss of the Travelocity and Nationwide accounts.

After we posted on downsizing across the Cheil Worldwide agency’s North Carolina and New York City offices last month, CEO Brad Brinegar reached out to AdAge to say that the company had laid off only 18% of its workforce. Our sources’ claims that the total number of staffers fired had been “in the mid-two-digit range” was accurate, however, as Brinegar listed the number of individuals affected by that particular round of layoffs at 34.

Beyond Brinegar’s announcement, the agency exodus continues.


This week, partner and chief operating officer Joni Madison left McKinney after more than two decades. She has moved to the gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, where she will serve as chief operating officer and chief of staff.

A quote by HRC president Chad Griffin from the organization’s press release, which went live yesterday: “Joni is already a loved member of the HRC family, and I am thrilled to get to work more closely with her in the fight for full equality.” In the new role, Madison will report directly to Griffin while overseeing various operations of the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Madison first joined McKinney in 1992 as a producer and gradually moved her way up the ranks, becoming SVP and director of operations in 2000 before being promoted to partner/COO in 2003.

McKinney also parted ways with chief digital officer Jim Russell after more than a decade. Before the Nationwide news went public, an agency spokesperson confirmed that Russell would be leaving the agency but that he would continue working there during the first quarter of 2016. Our sources tell us that he is already gone.

Russell joined McKinney in North Carolina as partner/EVP/interactive strategy director in 2003 after serving as a VP of digital media at Jack Morton, among other roles. He was promoted to chief innovation officer in 2011 and chief digital officer in 2014.

The nature of Russell’s departure is unclear, as are his plans moving forward.

Finally, head of strategic services Yusuf Chuku departed back in January to become EVP/head of planning at McCann New York. Prior to joining McKinney in 2013, he was a global planning director at JWT New York and the chief strategy officer of Cheil Worldwide’s USA operations.