About Us

“Creative is the one area where a single person can defeat an army.”

— Late Founder Chick McKinney

Since 1969, we have consistently outpunched our weight, helping clients achieve extraordinary results through the power of creativity.

Our purpose is to discover and unleash the untapped potential in our world. And it’s not just about the untapped potential in our clients’ brands. It’s also about the untapped potential in our people and the broader community around us.

Four values bring our purpose to life:

Obsessed
with results
Obsessed
with results
We’re not precious about our ideas, we’re precious about the outcome.
Creatively
driven
Creatively
driven
All of us are about the work, because it’s the work that gets the job done.
Passionate people,
in it together
Passionate people,
in it together
We care enough about each other and our clients to be candid and persistent about what matters.
Always looking for
a better way
Always looking for
a better way
We respect what’s universal and timeless while constantly seeking new ways to bring brands to life.

One agency, two doors

Being headquartered in Durham gives McKinney a compelling perspective on and connection to the “real world.” Being in New York lets us see emerging trends before they cross the Hudson.

No matter which door, we’re united by the same purpose, mission, values, and a single P&L.

Pound for pound, McKinney is the most effective agency in America

The Effie Awards are our industry’s benchmark for marketing effectiveness. In 2003, we decided to see how we measured up. Since then, we rank 10th of 300+ winning agencies. No other agency comes close to offering our odds of helping clients achieve Effie-worthy business performance. We’ve helped 25 brands across 24 categories earn recognition 99 times, including:

Our mission is to help our clients achieve extraordinary results through creativity. Here are the stories behind some of that Effie-celebrated work.

Samsung Home Appliance: Kristen & Dax

In 20 months, Samsung rose from #5 to #1 in retail outlet sales in
the Home Appliance category.

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Challenge

Samsung was a leading technology brand but a relative unknown in home appliances.

Solution

Set Samsung apart from traditional legacy brands by using their tech cred and celebrity couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard to become known as the brand for modern family life.

Mizuno: Mezamashii Run Project

Named most effective brand in North America
by Effie Worldwide and WARC.

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Challenge

Mizunos are real runners’ shoes, so they are stiff until you break them in. So they almost always lose to cushier mass brands when people compare them in-store.

Solution

Take trial out of the store and onto the road, creating a community of Mizuno ambassadors through the Mezamashii Run Project.

Ad Council: No One Gets
a Diploma Alone

Program’s most successful campaign ever, with a 70% increase in site visits and over a million people seeking online courses.

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Challenge

Getting your high school equivalency is hard, and aspirants worried about the extra burden on their loved ones. They didn’t realize that no one wants them to earn their degree more than their family and friends.

Solution

Using the insight that no one gets a diploma alone, we celebrated the stories of families, friends and mentors helping support people while they earned their diploma.

ESPN SEC Network: Take It All In

Most successful launch of a new network in
the history of cable television.

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Challenge

Convince national cable providers to carry a channel featuring the lesser sports programming of a college conference with an 11-state footprint.

Solution

Instead of making it about the sports, we made it about the fans — activating them — with help from some very high-profile coaches, to pressure providers to carry the network.

Extraordinary results is what we are about. Creativity is how we do it.  And we have plenty of creative awards to prove that the two go hand in hand.

There’s a simple philosophy behind all that unleashed potential.
What isn’t so simple is what we do with it.

People care more about themselves than they care about brands.
And they tend to pick categories before they choose brands.
So for a brand to reach its full potential, it has to connect with what brings people to the category in the first place.
When we create a brand experience that exceeds category expectations, you win.

Our capabilities

Audience
Definition
Audience
Definition
You want as many customers as you can profitably serve. But some people are more likely than others to drive your business.
Human
Insight
Human
Insight
The most powerful brands own the real reasons why people come to your category in the first place. Our job is to divine those truths.
Brand
Strategy
Brand
Strategy
Knowing how people feel about you now and what you can credibly deliver, we seek a path to connecting your brand to what people seek from your category.
Communications
Strategy
Communications
Strategy
Given your business objectives, what’s the real challenge that communications can address? Starting there increases the odds of extraordinary results.
Brand Experience
Design
Brand Experience
Design
We examine every lever from product performance to cultural context to design a brand experience that exceeds category expectations.
Integrated Creative
Development
Integrated Creative
Development
We start from ideas, not executions. And use each touch point to deliver its role in the brand experience.
Integrated Creative
Production
Integrated Creative
Production
Our production team, one of the most respected in the business, is structured to achieve efficiency and effectiveness across media.
Experiential
Marketing
Experiential
Marketing
We are the rare creative agency with the ability to deliver physical brand experience, such as Samsung’s entire annual presence at CES.
Media Planning,
Buying & Optimization
Media Planning,
Buying & Optimization
When media unbundled from creative, we held on. In a world where the medium is so often the message, media remains central to our creative thinking.
Research
& Analytics
Research
& Analytics
Our qualitative inquiry is supplemented by primary quantitative research. We also optimize our clients’ digital efforts through performance analytics.