Creative Person 2019: Sean Bryan and Tom Murphy, McCann New York

Sean Bryan and Tom Murphy's careers have been linked for 24 years, in a partnership that goes from strength to strength. Clearly, there's some creative chemistry happening.

This longtime pair—Bryan is a copywriter and Murphy is an art director—have led McCann New York as co-chief creative officers since 2012. In 2019, they took advertising to a wholly different realm by putting some of the world’s biggest brands into the middle of the public conversation. 

For brands as big as Mastercard, Verizon and Microsoft, Bryan and Murphy tackled subjects as important as transgender and non-binary acceptance, supporting first responders and connecting people with limited mobility. 

They positioned these companies at the forefront of social issues and raked in earned media valued well into the tens of millions of dollars.

McCann’s "True Name" work for Mastercard extended the credit issuer’s 10 years of sponsoring Pride Week to an enduring commitment to LGBTQIA+. The True Name card features the names transgender and nonbinary people have chosen rather than the names on their birth certificates. 

McCann renamed the already iconic corner of Christoper and Gay streets Acceptance Street. Under the Gay Street sign, the agency installed nine others, such as Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual streets, in rainbow colors.

Acceptance Street became a tourist and media stop. McCann estimated a 19:1 earned-to-paid ratio and spurred other banks to consider doing the same.  

The McCann pair took Verizon’s longtime message of reliability to the Super Bowl with a heart-warming campaign, "The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here." This third, Super Bowl team was made up of NFL players and a coach who literally survived tragedy in their lives thanks to reliably made calls to emergency services. 

These stories appeared in installments and were gathered into a broadcast program. They also went viral, capturing more than 244 million impressions. A Super Bowl spot told LA Chargers coach Anthony Lynn’s rescue story and made USA Today’s top-five spots of the game. 

Bryan and Murphy helped others understand how something as routine as connecting over an Xbox game was a social contact lost to kids with limited mobility.  Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller was the first device designed to allow people with limited mobility to play video games. 

Instead of detailing the technical wizardry, Bryan and Murphy emphasized the vital  social connections adaptive technology gives kids, letting them participate like any other on the Xbox platform.  

Once again, Bryan and Murphy kicked off a news cycle, from morning shows to tech blogs, bringing awareness to the controller and the cause to the tune of $35 million in earned media.

There’s more, including Bryan and Murphy’s involvement with the March for Our LIves campaign to end school shootings. They had a young girl show chastened  adults what to do in case of a live shooter, as she’d been taught during the lockdown drills that are sadly part of the school day.  

Prior to 2019, the two helped stage the face off between Fearless Girl and Wall Street’s Charging Bull statues for State Street Global Advisors. 

These co-creative chiefs, who got their start at JWT and went on to DDB have perfected the craft of advertising at McCann Worldwide. They’ve taken ads beyond "and now a word from our sponsor" to the stories themselves.