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Peter McKone ’49

A Dream Fulfilled

Midmorning on a Wednesday in April in the final minutes of an hour-long interview, Peter McKone casually mentions that he arrived in Texas in 1949 with $25 in his pocket and a dream of working in advertising.

He ended up owning a multi-million advertising agency and seeing all 10 of his children graduate from college.

McKone had opened the discussion with the disclaimer that he didn’t think what he had to say would be of great interest. It is likely that that modesty—coupled with indefatigable persistence and an understanding of people—is what made McKone a force in advertising. McKone & Co.’s client roster included national names like Wilsonart and Aerospatiale.

Another asset: McKone’s intellectual curiosity. When a student, this ad man, who earned a B.S. in marketing from URI, also possessed a strong interest in literature: “Every semester I took a lot of literature—British literature, Shakespeare. Literature offered a vision of people and how they reacted to history.”

McKone’s many interests served him well. When working in newspaper advertising, for instance, the young advertising manager learned that if an ad appearing in the paper on Friday didn’t yield a sale by Sunday, then it wasn’t a successful ad. The key was in knowing the client, the product, and the audience.

McKone was a pro at relationship marketing decades before the term was coined. He learned early that if you put one client in an industry together in a program with other non-competitive advertisers in a similar industry, you multiply the effect. He also learned that you can’t be what you aren’t—“Chevrolet can’t advertise like Cadillac.”

McKone sold his business a decade ago. His retirement is spent flying his plane every Wednesday and keeping up with his children’s lives.

When asked what one thing he’d want people to know about him, he answered, “I did a good job. I did the best I could. And I loved every minute of it.”

—M.E. Reilly-McGreen

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