We Hear: Downsizing Follows Nationwide Loss at McKinney

By Patrick Coffee 

One week ago, Nationwide announced that it would end its seven-year relationship with McKinney as part of an effort to “move in another direction regarding our creative work” while emphasizing that its decision had nothing to do with the agency’s performance.

At the time, a client spokesperson said, “our brand is healthier because of McKinney’s efforts” while agency CEO and chairman Brad Brinegar released a statement reading: “This does not reflect poor performance by McKinney. What it does reflect is a shift in strategic focus and client leadership.” We’ve yet to confirm the status of the Nationwide business and the client declined to comment on future plans, though sources did claim that McKinney’s loss will be Ogilvy’s win.

Because Nationwide was one of the former agency’s largest accounts, some changes were inevitable–and we hear that they’ve already begun.

According to sources close to the matter, McKinney has laid off approximately one-third of its total workforce across its North Carolina and New York City offices following Nationwide’s decision. Specifics regarding timing and departments are scarce, but various reports place the total number of departures in the mid-two-digit range.

Nationwide was the precipitating factor behind this change, though Campbell Ewald also won the business of longtime McKinney client Travelocity last September. “Roaming Gnome” GCD Philip Marchington and several other high-ranking creatives either left McKinney or moved into less active roles following that announcement, though the agency also announced several major promotions and new hires–especially in its New York office–during the fall and winter of 2015.

Multiple parties have told us as well as AdAge that holding company Cheil Worldwide, which is also in the midst of managing an executive overhaul at Barbarian Group, will soon accept Publicis Groupe’s rumored offer to become its largest shareholder with a 30 percent stake.

This will most likely mean more changes at Cheil’s stateside agencies.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell us that Brinegar will soon travel to Cheil headquarters in Seoul to discuss an action plan regarding McKinney.

An agency spokesperson declined to comment for this post.