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Dan Wieden, the ad legend behind Wieden+Kennedy, Nike’s ‘Just Do It,’ dies at age 77


Dan Wieden, the architect, inventive guru and gifted supervisor who constructed what’s arguably probably the most well-known advert company on this planet, died Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, at age 77.

Wieden, alongside together with his late accomplice David Kennedy, shaped Wieden+Kennedy, which through the years turned the world’s largest unbiased promoting company. It was finest identified for its work on the Nike account, constantly crafting messages that lodged themselves within the public consciousness.

Wieden was humorous, self-deprecating and massively formidable. His best reward could properly have been his capability to steer and handle the quirky, eccentric, and generally tough personalities behind the most effective content material. Karl Lieberman, the company’s present chief inventive officer, likened Wieden to Lorne Michaels, the visionary behind “Saturday Evening Reside.” The solid modified, the gags got here and went, however identical to “SNL,” Wieden+Kennedy lived on and remained related.

“The explanation it lasted so lengthy was that he didn’t construct an advert company, he constructed a tradition,” Lieberman stated. “Curious, pushed, welcoming and missing deference … it’s a spot that in loads of methods displays him.”

Wieden was born in Portland on March 6, 1945, to Violet and Duke Wieden. He attended Grant Excessive College and graduated in 1967 from the College of Oregon with a level in journalism.

He married Bonnie Scott in 1966, with whom he had 4 kids. She died in 2008. In 2012, Wieden married Priscilla Bernard.

He labored — and, in keeping with Wieden+Kennedy, was fired from — the Portland paper firm Georgia-Pacific however later was employed at its advertising company, McCann-Erickson. It was there that he met Kennedy.

When Georgia-Pacific relocated its headquarters to Atlanta within the early Nineteen Eighties, McCann-Erickson closed its Portland workplace, and the long run enterprise companions moved to a different company the place they labored collectively on the Nike account. Inside a matter of months, they based Wieden+Kennedy.

The lengthy bond between the company and sneaker firm turned the envy of the promoting and advertising world.

“I used to be simply fortunate to see these two forces come collectively,” stated Scott Bedbury, who joined Nike in 1988 as its promoting director. “You had this company that had no endurance with conventional promoting and a consumer that didn’t imagine in advertising.”

Nike on the time had just lately debuted its “Revolution” TV spot, an edgy, artsy advert that featured the well-known Beatles music. Nike had paid greater than $800,000 for the musical rights — solely to get ripped by music lovers for appropriating one of many rock period’s nice singles to promote sneakers.

“One in all Dan’s nice traces, a part of his ethos, was that in case you’re going to do one thing memorable and worthwhile, it ought to have an edge,” Bedbury stated. “But when it has an edge, somebody will get lower. So be it, so long as it’s genuine and true.”

Bedbury didn’t want convincing. The advert had confirmed massively fashionable. Plus, Bedbury knew that his boss, Nike CEO Phil Knight, agreed wholeheartedly with Wieden.

Not lengthy after, additionally in 1988, Nike unveiled its basic “Simply Do It” tagline. Whereas Wieden was often fast to credit score his star creatives for the company’s memorable work, Wieden all the time claimed “Simply Do It” as his personal creation.

It turned arguably probably the most well-known promoting tagline in trendy company historical past. Since its adoption of the slogan, Nike’s annual gross sales have elevated from $877 million to about $46 billion.

Jerry Cronin did most of the company’s basic Nike and ESPN campaigns again within the Nineteen Eighties. Requested for a favourite Wieden story, he recounted an advert marketing campaign that by no means occurred.

Cronin was touring to Modesto, California, as soon as a month making an attempt to provide you with a marketing campaign acceptable to the executives at E. & J. Gallo Vineyard, the mass-market wine operation. The wine executives rejected pitch after pitch. In desperation, Cronin advised an advert marketing campaign “a couple of barely fictional company that goes to Gallo headquarters each month and might by no means promote a single advert,” he remembers.

To Cronin’s shock, Wieden known as a halt to the recruitment effort.

“This relationship with Gallo might have lasted many beneficial years,” Cronin stated. “And any company head would’ve been effective with that. Dan Wieden wasn’t effective with it. He believed the company’s popularity and success was depending on doing nice and completely different work for each consumer.”

Wieden+Kennedy at this time employs 1,500 individuals at eight workplaces worldwide. Its headquarters stays in Portland. Its largest purchasers are Nike, McDonald’s and Ford.

Wieden stepped again from every day administration duties a couple of decade in the past. The company is now owned by a belief, Lieberman stated.

Dave Luhr, who was an govt with Wieden+Kennedy for a few years, is the chairman of the belief. He says the belief was largely Wieden’s thought and it’s structured in such a approach that it can’t promote the company.

Luhr confirmed that Wieden entertained a large variety of would-be patrons through the years and fortunately rejected the entire affords. Luhr declined to share any particulars of these affords or how a lot cash Wieden left on the desk.

“It was a daring transfer,” Luhr stated. “Dan was a daring thinker.”

Wieden is survived by his spouse Priscilla Bernard Wieden, daughter Tami Wiedensmith, daughter Laura Blatner, daughter Cassie, son Bryan, stepson Nathan Bernard, stepdaughter Bree Oswill, stepson Sean Oswill, brother Ken, sister Sherrie and 12 grandchildren.

The household asks for remembrances to be made as items to Caldera Arts, an arts and mentorship nonprofit based by Wieden and his household in 1996.

— Jeff Manning; jmanning@oregonian.com

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