He was the mastermind behind Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline and the first video to reach a million views on YouTube – Ronaldinho sporting a pair of Nike football boots. And who could forget the Shetland pony moondancing to Fleetwood Mac for Three Mobile? David Kennedy, a giant of the global advertising industry, passed away on Sunday 10 October at the age of 82.
This week, those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with David have led the tributes across social media, pointing not just to his outsize legacy but also the joy he evoked through his work. Sebastian Groebner, for instance, commented on the Wieden+Kennedy Instagram post announcing his passing that Kennedy was a “true legend. One of the most creative and thoughtful minds of our industry,” adding that he will be “tremendously missed”.
The eponymous company began life in 1982, when Kennedy met Dan Wieden whilst they were working at McCann-Erickson in Portland, Oregon. Wieden+Kennedy’s headquarters is still there, although it now also runs numerous global offices. Under Kennedy, the advertising agency was named the most-awarded agency in the world and still remains one of the most recognised, being one of the largest privately held ad agencies on the planet.
Common themes within the tributes seem to be kindness, humility and inspiration when paying respects to the creative, with synonyms for each coming up in seemingly every dedication. “Don’t act big,” Kennedy once said, and his words matched up with his actions. Employees and colleagues of Kennedy say that he showed them, for example, that “you don’t need to be egotistical to be successful in this industry,” as Justin Scrappers Morrison (@scrappers) noted on Instagram. And there’s no denying advertising can be an industry notorious for its egotism. “David was always so cool,” wrote Walker Cahall (@waltronic). “I loved helping him with little projects in the studio... That dude could tell a story.”
“We were just soul mates in a way,” Kennedy once said of his partner Dan Wieden, putting their success as an agency down to this partnership. Although Kennedy left the company in 1995, he remained a staple source of compassion at the agency. Wieden+Kennedy, a proud B Certified corporation at their office in Amsterdam, aims to be a true independent company with a transparent ethos. In 2011, The Kennedys was founded, a creative incubator programme built to develop emerging talent outside of traditional advertising routes, helping those with less access to the field.
Image courtesy of Wieden+Kennedy
About the Author
Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.