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Remembering ad icon Dan Wieden who gave Nike's 'Just Do It' slogan

The man behind the iconic ‘Just Do It’ slogan for Nike, passed away last week

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Mumbai: I consider myself fortunate enough to have interviewed some of the best in the advertising industry and which I shall continue doing thanks to the lovely people around, but someone like Dan Wieden always seemed unforgettable. His fatherly instinct towards me, the warmth in his eyes and the joy in his smile, made my visit to the Goafest in 2009, successful! And it was with a very heavy heart, that the global advertising fraternity bid him a final goodbye on 30 September.

Dan Wieden and his late partner, David Kennedy together founded Wieden + Kennedy (W+K) on April 1 in 1982 – in Portland, Oregon. The agency later went on to become one of the world’s largest independent advertising agencies. Over the years, the agency has added offices in New York City, London, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Tokyo, Delhi and São Paulo.

W+K stepped foot into India in 2007, which was its seventh office at that time. The agency announced its entry in the country armed with the global creative duties for the Nokia account. It also later on, went on to acquire A Advertising, a Delhi-based creative shop which was run by V Sunil.

Wieden, 77, amongst the slew of his celebrated works, is most famous for his grind on one of the agency’s oldest and foremost accounts – Nike. He coined the slogan ‘Just Do It’ for the brand, and it has stuck ever since (not that it’s a bad thing at all!). And it doesn’t seem like the brand has any plans to switch its slogan, at least till the near future.

So when I met Wieden, my most obvious curiosity was to know about what he thought about bagging the Nike account in India. Prior to and at the time when W+K was setting up shop in the country, the Nike account was being taken care of by Wunderman Thompson (the erstwhile JWT). Eventually, Wieden’s secret wish of W+K handling the Nike account in India did come true, as the agency bagged the creative duties of the brand in 2016. But this desire of  Wieden’s was short-lived and they lost the account in 2018.

Apart from Nike, Wieden’s global work for brands like McDonalds, Bud Light, and Old Spice also sparked creativity.

While Wieden never formally retired from the agency, he stepped into a chairman role in 2005 and stepped away from active agency life in 2015.

Reports suggest that to guarantee Wieden+Kennedy would continue to be independent indefinitely, Wieden had famously declared that he would never sell the agency and had transferred ownership into a trust before he passed away.

Though the reason for his death is not clear yet, Wieden is said to have passed away peacefully at his home in Portland, with his wife by his side, citing reports which have been attributed to the company.

But, undoubtedly, the legacy of Wieden still lives - within W+K and its employees, the people within the advertising clan and across all who have been close to him, whom he has touched with his gentleness and who have known him in some way or the other.

So, here’s to you Dan Wieden, wishing you a safe and peaceful journey towards the most significant and beautiful destination.

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