Nicholson Builds Team at McKinney in N.Y.

Leicht, Benjamin join as creative directors

In Jonny Leicht and Jake Benjamin, McKinney’s New York ecd Peter Nicholson thinks he has found some trusted lieutenants.

Leicht and Benjamin are the first creative directors hired by Nicholson, who joined McKinney in January when the Durham, N.C.-based shop entered the market via parent company Cheil Worldwide. Cheil’s namesake agency already had a presence in New York and joined forces with its southeastern brother to create McKinney in New York.

Jake Benjamin, Melissa Cabral and Jonny Leicht Photo: Ric Kallaher

The combined operation has a staff of about 25 and is a key player on Samsung’s creative roster. Other leaders include managing director Alex Van Gestel and head of strategic services Yusuf Chuku.

As a small player in the Big Apple, Nicholson needs cds who are as comfortable managing staffers as creating work—player-coaches, if you will. Nicholson is confident that both Leicht, 32, and Benjamin, 38, can thrive in that hybrid role.

Beyond their versatility, Nicholson cited the pedigree of the shops that his new hires have worked at in the past.

Leicht’s resumé includes stops at Wieden + Kennedy, Anomaly, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and R/GA, handling brands such as Converse, Hewlett-Packard, Comcast, Nike and Barnes & Noble. Most recently, he freelanced for the likes of Google Creative Lab, 72andSunny and Deutsch.

Benjamin also worked as a freelancer—at Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Droga5, among other shops—before joining McKinney. Earlier in his career, he held creative roles at Saatchi & Saatchi, Goodby and Lowe. His brand experience ranges from Tide to Hyundai.

“I love the journey each has experienced in the industry,” Nicholson said.

The new cds arrive just as Chuku expands his planning ranks. Melissa Cabral, 29, a former senior strategic planner at The Martin Agency, has become a senior account planner at McKinney.