“Our collective Yoda”: Creatives and agencies pen tributes to advertising titan Dan Wieden

The legend of advertising produced some of the most globally enduring campaigns with Wieden+Kennedy – an agency which remains fiercely independent due to his influence.

3 October 2022

On Friday, 30 September, Dan Wieden – the mind behind some of the biggest moments in advertising and one of the most renowned agencies – has died. An obituary from Wieden+Kennedy confirms the agency’s co-founder “passed away peacefully with his wife by his side in his home in Portland, Oregon at the age of 77”.

Perhaps best known for ‘Just Do It’, a household tagline Wieden coined in 1988 and one that Nike still uses decades on, Dan Wieden stoked the fires for one of the most fruitful client-creative partnerships in advertising: Nike and Wieden+Kennedy’s. Nike was Wieden and David Kennedy’s first and only client when they set up their eponymous agency on April Fool’s Day in 1982, armed with a card table, a few chairs and some cardboard file cabinets. Since then, Wieden’s influence has extended to countless ads that have shaped the zeitgeist, from Superbowl contributions to cultural resets like Nike’s ‘Is It the Shoes?’ with Spike Lee.

The Wieden+Kennedy co-founder was also well known for philanthropy (he founded Caldera Arts, an arts and environmental summer camp in Central Oregon), always aiming to enable others to do their best work. This vision is why Wieden+Kennedy remains independent to this day; Wieden famously said he would burn the agency down before selling it, eventually putting it into a trust.

On Wieden+Kennedy’s Twitter, the agency recent wrote in a tribute: “Thank you Dan, for throwing the doors wide open for people to live up to their full potential.” Droga5 chairman David Droga echoed these words: “He made our entire industry better, more valuable and far kinder. Thank you to our collective Yoda.”

Global creative company Mother London wrote: “He was and always will be the giant on whose shoulders we all seek to climb.”

Meanwhile, Wieden+Kennedy managing director Blake Harrop offered an insight into what it was like to work for the executive on Linkedin. “Best hug I ever received from a boss. Best ghost stories I’ve ever been told. Strangest and most joyful job interview I’ve ever had. Most inspiring leader I’ve ever known. Dan Wieden cared more about helping people live up to their creative potential than anyone I’ve ever met.”

In his early career, Wieden worked for Georgia-Pacific, a forest products company in Portland. The obituary from Wieden+Kennedy recounts: “He spoke of this job, and the day he was fired from it, as the day he received the freedom to fail. He would take this spirit with him and practice it in every future endeavour.”

Following Wieden’s death, his family has asked that gifts be made to Caldera Arts.

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Courtesy of Wieden+Kennedy

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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