Dan Wieden, an architect, creative mastermind, and talented manager, passed away on Friday, September 30, 2022, at the age of 77. He is known for starting Wieden+Kennedy, the most famous advertising agency ever.
In 1980, Wieden founded Wieden+Kennedy with his late business partner David Kennedy, which over time grew to be the biggest independent advertising firm in the world. It was best known for its work on the Nike account, where it continuously created messages that became ingrained in people’s minds.
Dan Wieden, March 6, 1945-September 30, 2022.
Thank you Dan, for throwing the doors wide open for people to live up to their full potential.
We will miss you so much. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/SyPfYP5KeL
— Wieden+Kennedy (@WiedenKennedy) October 1, 2022
Wieden was incredibly ambitious, humorous, and self-deprecating. The ability to guide and control the colorful, quirky and occasionally challenging people who created the best content may have been his greatest talent. Wieden was compared to Lorne Michaels, the creative force behind “Saturday Night Live,” by Karl Lieberman, the agency’s currently chief creative officer. Like “SNL,” Wieden+Kennedy survived and remained relevant despite changes in the cast and the ebb and flow of the jokes.
According to Lieberman, “the reason it survived so long was that he didn’t construct an ad firm, he built a culture. It’s a place that, in many ways, mirrors him. It’s curious, motivated, inviting, and lacking in deference.
About Dan Wieden
Wieden was born in Portland on March 6, 1945, to parents Violet and Duke Wieden. He went to Grant High School and in 1967 got a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.
In 1966, he married Bonnie Scott, with whom he had four kids. In 2008, she passed away. In 2012, Wieden wed Priscilla Bernard.
He was employed by the Portland paper business, Georgia-Pacific, where Wieden+Kennedy claims he was fired but was afterward hired by its marketing firm, McCann-Erickson. There, he first encountered Kennedy.
Early in the 1980s, when Georgia-Pacific moved its headquarters to Atlanta, McCann-Erickson shut down its office in Portland, and the future business partners migrated to another firm where they collaborated on the Nike account. They started Wieden+Kennedy a short while later.
The advertising and marketing industry was jealous of how long the agency had worked with the sneaker brand.
Scott Bedbury, who started working at Nike in 1987 as its director of advertising, remarked, “I was just happy to see those two forces come together.” You had a customer who didn’t believe in marketing, and you had this agency that had no patience with traditional advertising. “
At the time, Nike had just released its edgy, artistic “Revolution” TV campaign, which used the well-known Beatles song. Nike paid more than $800,000 for the musical rights, only to receive criticism from music fans for using one of the greatest singles from the rock era to promote shoes.
Bedbury cited a terrific quote by Dan as part of his philosophy: “If you’re going to make anything memorable and valuable, it should have an edge.” But someone will get hurt if it has a sharp edge. So long as it is genuine and accurate, so be it.
As a result of its classic Nike ads, such as the “Just Do It” advertisements, W+K rose to prominence in the advertising industry. The agency’s aggressive culture persisted after Kennedy retired from the agency in 1995. Don’t Accidentally Kill Someone is all that was written in bold black letters on a yellow screen in a COVID-19 PSA made for Oregon’s “Stay home, save lives” campaign last year.
David Kennedy, May 31, 1939 – October 10, 2021. Your legacy and spirit will live on forever in our hearts and our work. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/K7DuBftUkX
— Wieden+Kennedy (@WiedenKennedy) October 12, 2021
According to David Ewald, a professor in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication’s advertising department, the independence of the agency Kennedy helped found revolutionized the advertising industry’s culture.
In Portland, where he was born and raised, Wieden attended Grant High School. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Oregon before going on to work in public relations and copywriting.
Portland-based Georgia-Pacific, a manufacturer of forest products, employed Wieden.
Wieden and David Kennedy established Wieden+Kennedy on April 1st, 1982. The obituary states, “With a card table, a few seats, some cardboard file cabinets, and one client—Nike.”
According to the statement, Wieden “moved into a chairman role and away from active agency life in 2015” rather than officially retiring from the agency.
Kennedy, his business partner, passed away last year.