How an Apple Vet Ended Up Starting Verizon’s In-House Shop

Andrew McKechnie joined the telecom giant in February 2017

At Verizon, McKechnie’s focus will be on experimentation as the brand moves into new spaces, such as 5G. Courtesy of Verizon

For Andrew McKechnie, the journey from joining global agency FCB as a copywriter in January 2001 to becoming svp and CCO of Verizon in February 2017 was a steady climb.

“I worked up the ranks in a fairly traditional manner: building my creative portfolio, doing good work, winning awards, winning accounts, winning large global accounts,” he said of his agency experience, which included stints with BBDO, JWT, Modernista!, Y&R and DDB.

The highlights of his advertising career, however, were far from traditional. “The types of projects that fulfilled me a little bit more were ones where I felt like I was bringing a positive narrative or perspective to society,” McKechnie explained.

For example, he served as ecd on one of his favorites, “New Beginnings,” in which two New York City Ballet dancers performed on the terrace of 4 World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2013. The spot avoided some of the pitfalls marketers ran into when trying to incorporate Sept. 11 into their campaigns, instead representing a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a tribute to the future of the city.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that McKechnie’s first gig outside of the agency world came with a company that fancies itself as nontraditional: He became global group creative director at Apple in March 2014.

“My experience at Apple was more skewed toward understanding the product from end to end,” he said. That included industrial design, packaging, photography, communications design, marketing materials, billboards and television ads.

So why the move to the more conventional Verizon? “Probably the most compelling reason was to go into a company and from the ground up build an internal creative capability [in-house agency 140] in what I thought would be the most contemporary, modern version of an organization,” he explained.

McKechnie’s focus will be on experimentation as the brand moves into new spaces, like 5G. He predicts that in five years, Verizon will probably be midway through a brand transformation.

“The breadth of production and types of mediums you’re exposed to sets you up well as a creative leader,” he said of his career to date. “Advertising is a great industry in that respect: You get to touch a lot of different industries and work with a lot of amazing talents with diverse backgrounds, people of all disciplines.”

Big Mistake

McKechnie’s big mistake starts with the smallest of errors with a much bigger root: “Micro-moments where I haven’t trusted my gut and my instincts and allowed work to go out there that shouldn’t have gone out there or wasn’t right.”

Lesson Learned

Afterwards, McKechnie learned that intuition is the most valuable tool in the workplace, and he advises to trust your personal judgment. “We try to do the right thing, but sometimes we let other forces define it for us,” he said.

How He Got the Gig

Though it’s been a long road, McKechnie ultimately credits several conversations with Verizon chief marketing officer Diego Scotti, “a very convincing CMO who has a very strong vision.”

Pro Tip

Being CCO of a major company may be a hefty responsibility, but McKechnie’s biggest tip is a simple one that can apply to anyone in any industry: “You really need to make sure that you’re nice to people. Don’t be a dick.”

This story first appeared in the August 20, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.