Since January, the midsize shop known mainly for its Audi of America work has lured account executives, a strategist and a trio of executives from well-regarded agencies. The newest hire is Dave Cook, executive creative director at New York independent Mad Dogs & Englishmen from 1996 to 2002. Mr. Cook, 41, started last week and will head the agency's marquee client. Mr. Cook reports to David Baldwin, executive creative director, who had headed Audi along with overseeing the remainder of the agency's creative accounts, which he will continue to do.
"We intend to be one of the great agencies in the country, and the only way that is going to happen is if I have the very best people," said President-CEO Brad Brinegar, a veteran of Leo Burnett Co., now owned by Publicis Groupe, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' former Ammirati Puris Lintas.
McKinney's other recent hires include Lee Newman, now account group director on Audi, who helped build the strategy behind BMW films for Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide; Denis Budniewski, group account director on the Nasdaq account, who previously led Saatchi & Saatchi's Procter & Gamble Co. business; Ted Gilvar, group account director on Lands' End, formerly responsible for Dunkin' Donuts at Interpublic's Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. Doug Holroyd, now executive director-connection planning, also joined from Fallon.
The agency is also trying to reinvent itself by forming a design unit and public relations arm. Next June, it plans to move from its plain-vanilla 1960s Raleigh, N.C., office building to a refurbished tobacco warehouse in nearby Durham.
Mr. Baldwin said the 34-year-old McKinney is using the economic downtime to reinvent itself as a "thought leader," which the agency defines as creating inspirational marketing communications campaigns that influence society. Its models are Wieden & Kennedy and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.
"We are making investments at a time when most agencies are pulling back and tightening their belts," said Mr. Baldwin. "It's a bold move."