The former exec VP-group creative director at McCann Erickson who wrote more than 100 ads for the fast-food chain died Jan. 31 at his home in New Caanan, Conn., after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. He was 54.
From 1987 to 2006, wherever the chain's founder, Dave Thomas, and the Wendy's account went, Mr. McKennan and partner Paul Basile would follow -- from Backer & Spielvogel to Bates USA and, finally, to McCann.
A Harvard graduate, Mr. McKennan began his career as an advertising copywriter, winning several awards in his first decade out of school until he began working on the Wendy's business. He and Mr. Thomas began a close friendship and partnership based on similar backgrounds (both were adopted). It was Mr. McKennan who wrote the Advertising Hall of Fame-honored Dave Thomas Wendy's campaign.
After he was diagnosed with a brain tumor on June 1, 2006, Mr. McKennan left his position as exec VP-group creative director at McCann and his family produced T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats with a "Team Jim" logo on it as a way to rally behind him. They also created a personal web page on Caring Bridge. Nearly 36,500 people have visited the site, which features his story, journal, links, pictures and nearly 1,250 messages from family, friends and well-wishers.
Following his death, condolences and stories poured into the guestbook. One of them was from McCann Worldgroup Chief Operating Officer Eric Keshin, who wrote: "Despite his Red Sox allegiance, he was one of the nicest, most caring and smartest people in the business. And his touch as a writer will live forever in advertising history."