After 134 years, one of the oldest agency names in Canadian advertising is being retired today, as Winnipeg’s McKim.Sherpa rebrands as The Show and Tell Agency.
The 55-person shop was the last in Canada to bear the McKim name, which traces its origins back to 1889, when Anson McKim launched A. McKim and Company in Montreal. The agency first opened in Winnipeg in 1911, and has been part of the city’s advertising landscape in various incarnations ever since.
Peter George (right in top photo) has been leading the current iteration since merging his agency with what was then McKim Cringan in 2006; Marty Fisher joined him as co-CEO after McKim merged with his digital shop Sherpa Marketing in 2021.
The agency subsequently adopted the name McKim.Sherpa, which was intended as a stopgap until a new name for the merged entity could be determined.
Early last year, in a bit of cheeky self-promotion to alert clients of an impending name change, it temporarily adopted the name Mermaid Cheeks. The name arose out of a word scramble in the agency’s holiday greeting containing letters from the two shops’ names.
“It kind of set the stage for us to come up with something new very quickly after that, which we did not,” said George of the tongue-in-cheek rebrand. “We had thought we’d come up with something very quickly, but it just didn’t happen.
“We got busy with other people’s work, there was some internal disagreement about what the company should or could be called, and eventually we just sort of shelved it and said ‘Let’s just get to work.’ We were recovering from a pandemic, like everybody in the industry, and we wanted to get going while the going was good.”
The Mermaid Cheeks name was intended as a lighthearted bit of self-promotion, but actually ended up wreaking havoc with the business.
“No one could find us,” said George. “We’d put job postings on LinkedIn and nobody would apply. Our VP of digital [Myles Barr] came to me and said ‘This is really [messing] up our business.’ I guess we didn’t think it through.” The name lasted for about six weeks before the agency decided to revert back to its previous name.
But marketing and advertising is an industry that is always looking forward and George said it felt like the time was right to leave the McKim name behind.
One of the unexpected obstacles was convincing McKim’s legacy staff, some of whom had worked at the agency for two decades. “A lot of people just felt very loyal [to the name], so part of it was change management and trying to help people understand that there probably wasn’t as much equity in that brand name as they thought there was.”
Management invited staff to participate in a branding exercise in which they could put forward any name, so long as it was backed up with solid rationale. They received about 30 submissions, but Show and Tell was the name that quickly rose to the top, with Fisher describing it as a representation of the agency’s combined expertise. “We help our clients show up in pivotal moments of customer intent so we can tell their stories in memorable, meaningful ways,” he said.
The McKim name hasn’t gone away entirely, however. The Show and Tell agency’s headquarters at 211 Bannatyne Ave. in downtown Winnipeg, which has been known as the McKim Building since 2017, will continue to bear the McKim sign. “We’re going to keep that on the door for the foreseeable future,” said George. “It’s just kind of a tribute to the legacy of that agency in Western Canada, and Winnipeg in particular.”