The legendary Co-founder and President of Wieden+Kennedy, iconic adman and advocate of creative independents Dan Wieden, breathed his last on 30 September 2022. The agency that created Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ line that lives and inspires people to this day, will remain independent thanks to Wieden’s vision.
Dan Wieden is no more. How would you remember him?
That’s the question we put across to creative heads and agency leaders from Indian advertising. While some had interacted with him firsthand and even worked with him, for many, he remained an inspiration even from a distance.
‘A trailblazer for independents’
In an era where the network agencies ruled the world, he was a trailblazer for the independent agencies. The fact that he was fiercely independent till the very end shows that he was untouched by the commercial world, and that’s a true inspiration.
– Joono Simon, Founder & CCO, Brave New World Communications
‘A lighthouse of advertising creativity’
I would remember Dan Wieden as a lighthouse of advertising creativity. Amongst everything else that he marvellously created, what he built for Nike has been an inspiration and a guide for decade after decade of advertising creatives who started off across agencies, across the world.
Irrespective of whichever agency we work for, Dan’s passing away feels like a deeply personal loss for each one of us in advertising.
– Harshad Rajadhyaksha, CCO, Ogilvy
‘I will always hear Dan screaming into my ears: Just Do It.’
May his wonderful soul rest in peace. BTW am sure his heart is here on earth and still running every day.
I will always remember the day in 2014 when Dan included my Nike Cricket Film: ‘Make Every Yard Count’ in the Nike Hall of Fame, among the Top Ten Nike Films from around the world. Having had the honour of working on Nike and leading Nike Cricket as Writer, Creative Director and Film Director for over a decade, I will always hear Dan screaming into my ears: Just Do It.
– Senthil Kumar, Chief Creative Officer, Wunderman Thompson
‘Took Nike to another level of brand salience and preference’
Very sad to hear the passing away of Dan Wieden. I had invited Dan to take part in the CII Brand Summit in Hyderabad, which I was privileged to chair. He delivered the keynote address at the inaugural session. This was in February 2008. His was an outstanding presentation on how he took Nike to another level of brand salience and preference. The work over the last two decades for Nike has been a torch bearer for everything that came out in that category. May be find eternal peace and comfort wherever his Lord has taken him.
– SK Swamy, Chairman, RK Swamy Hansa Group
‘Work’ before ‘Money’
Around the world, including mine, Dan Wieden is remembered for Nike’s ‘Just do it’. Wieden is a great lover of craft, not just ideas. Some of the jury sessions we were part of, he used to reject certain ideas by asking where the craft was in a piece of work.
A personal incident I can recall was back in 2009. Wieden was invited to Goafest, where he delivered a speech. The next day he had to leave early to the airport to catch a flight. I also had a flight to catch and the bus arrived at 6 am to pick the delegates. Some of our Indian friends were late and Wieden was upset about them not being punctual. He is a joyful and nice person, who is very disciplined and punctual. That is reflected in his work as well. He has set high standards for himself and the industry.
Wieden + Kennedy remained an independent agency all these years, which is not an easy journey — and they are profitable as well. I remember Wieden saying somewhere, that only in the dictionary does ‘money’ come before ‘work’. Such people are hard to find.
Do we miss him? Of course anyone in the world who has anything to do with advertising will miss him. Losing one generation of people who are passionate about the industry is always difficult and painful.
– KV Sridhar (Pops), Global Chief Creative Officer, Nihilent
‘A great teacher’
I am blessed to have worked for and learned from quite a few of the legends. Even in that pantheon of greatness, Dan stands out. Just about everyone knows the pathbreaking work that was created on his watch. My personal favourite, the Micheal Jordan ‘Failure’ commercial for Nike. But, as good an adman as he was, he still remains a great teacher. It is no accident that some of the finest creative people blossomed under his tutelage. I got a small sampling of it during the two weeks I freelanced at W+K. The lessons I learned serve me well to this day.
– Bobby Pawar, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Havas Group India
‘W+K is a hope for any independent agency’
Dan Weiden was a great pioneer of independent agencies. In a world of network agencies, he stuck to his independence fiercely till his last day. His company was owned by a Trust, so there was no way he was ever going to sell. He truly built the company for freedom, it wasn’t just lip service, because he never wanted to be a victim of a big network’s power, authority, hierarchy, etc.
W+K is an iconic example of a lighthouse brand. At the time, all agencies opened in Madison Avenue and in big cities, but Dan daringly started his agency in Portland, where no one would want to go but he created the right culture and you know it, all the big brands and the best talent in the world went. He set the tone for advertising in the world with “Just do It” — something that still defines the way brands approach belief, purpose and communication. There are in fact many stories that Dan fired clients who treated the agency badly.
Dan genuinely believed in good creative work. When I was in New York, I was working on P&G with BBDO and many times we were pitching against W+K. And I remember losing the Old Spice pitch to them because they presented the courageous ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ work. The work was better, it was daring, they were having fun with the work and it showed.
W+K is a hope for any independent agency, reminding our industry even today that if your work is good, if you are able to dare to push the industry’s thinking and then craft it beautifully, you don’t need anyone else.
— Raj Kamble, Founder and CCO, Famous Innovations
Pick of the work.
We also asked some of the creatives to pick their all-time favourites from Dan Wieden’s work.
Joono Simon: ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign for Old Spice is special for me because it was truly fresh for the category and it did the hardest job of reviving an almost dead brand.
Senthil Kumar: Am sure there are hundreds of powerful ideas and expressions that came out of Dan Weiden and the greatness he inspired at W&K, but this series inspires me the most in
many different ways. One of the most powerful campaigns in marketing and advertising history by Dan Weiden and his team for Nike.