When Senior Strategist Kevin Murray was little, he wanted to be an actor, a psychologist and a lawyer. Right out of college, Chief Strategy Officer Walt Barron was a journalist on Capitol Hill. Somehow they both found their way to advertising, and McKinney is glad about that. This past Friday, they took their story, along with the agency’s recent Ad Council campaign, to UNC for “Inside Advertising,” a visiting scholars program sponsored by the Advertising Educational Foundation of New York. 

Walt and Kevin greeted 30 journalists and educators from China and Korea at the UNC School of Media and Journalism. They discussed what being a strategist at an ad agency is like and their role in creating advertising that leads to powerful results. “At McKinney, we believe people care more about themselves than brands,” said Walt. “For brands to matter, we must connect with people’s hopes, dreams and desires.”

Kevin presented the agency’s work for the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s #FinishYourDiploma initiative. Kevin described his deep immersion into the project, including traveling across the country to interview non-graduates, tutors and, most importantly, their friends and families. “What I found is there are many false stereotypes about people without diplomas. For example, there’s a stigma that they are lazy, but we learned they work harder than anyone else. They’re incredibly busy taking care of their children, their parents, extended family members and even neighbors. In fact, their greatest hesitation about going back to get their diploma is that it would require them to shift their focus away from taking care of those around them. But when we talked with their friends and family, we found that they are, in fact, a non-graduate’s greatest asset. They want their loved ones to go back and get their diploma and are eager to do what they can to help them. In essence, we learned that getting a diploma is a group effort.”

“No One Gets Their Diploma Alone” launched in August and the foundation’s website, finishyourdiploma.org, has seen close to 100,000 unique monthly visitors (up from 18,000), among other early results.