Dan Wieden, co-founder of the Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency, passed away on September 30, 2022. He was 77 years old.
Wieden was perhaps best-known for coining Nike’s long-running Just Do It tagline in 1988. But within the advertising industry, Wieden was similarly well-known for inspiring creativity and celebrating each individual’s culture and diversity.
Wieden was also a humanitarian, an innovator at social-purpose communications, and a champion of corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), for which we offer this appreciation…
Wieden was born in Portland, Oregon, on March 6, 1945, to Violet and Duke Wieden. His father, Duke, worked his way up to the presidency of Gerber Advertising, a regional agency.
In 1966, Dan Wieden married Bonnie Scott. They had four children together.
Dan Wieden attended the University of Oregon in Eugene, graduating from its School of Journalism and Communication in 1967.
Dan Wieden first met David Kennedy at McCann-Erickson, when that agency handled the Georgia-Pacific account from its Portland office. In 1981, Georgia-Pacific moved to Atlanta, so McCann-Erickson closed their Portland office. That led to Wieden and Kennedy joining the William Cain advertising agency. There, the two began working on the then-small Nike account.
The following year, on April 1, 1982, Wieden and Kennedy launched Wieden+Kennedy, their own advertising agency. The agency started with one client. Wieden coined Just Do It six years later.
At a time when most sportswear ads featured youthful athletes, Nike’s first Just Do It commercial featured an 80 year old jogger who ran 17 miles per day. To avoid having his teeth chatter during the winter, the old man explained that he left his dentures in his locker before embarking on 17-mile runs. Just Do It indeed.
“Dan Wieden’s impact on the Nike brand cannot be overstated… Dan’s vision of human potential, desire to impact culture in meaningful ways, and his lifelong commitment to diversity in all ways has shaped the Nike brand over the decade… His lessons have shaped the way I see the work and the responsibility of our calling,” said Alex Lopez, Nike’s former global VP, brand marketing and global men’s creative director.
Now, Wieden+Kennedy is the world’s largest independent advertising network.
Dan Wieden was featured in Doug Pray’s 2009 documentary Art & Copy, which included Wieden among “some of the most influential advertising creatives of our time.”
For his efforts to promote diversity in the ad industry, Wieden received the Catalyst Award from ADCOLOR in 2011. Wieden described the Catalyst Award as the most important award he ever received. According to AdWeek, Wieden’s “approach to advertising and mentorship made a substantial impact on the industry.” He was: “encouraging, caring, passionate and dedicated to elevating others’ voices.”
Though Dan Wieden never formally retired from Wieden+Kennedy, he transitioned into a significantly less active role in 2015. After Wieden’s first wife died, he married Priscilla Bernard in 2012.
Dan Wieden was actively devoted to causes close to his heart, family and hometown, particularly causes related to inclusion, creativity, and self-expression.
In 1996, Wieden and his family founded Caldera Arts, a welcoming and peaceful summer camp in Central Oregon dedicated to arts, self-expression, and environmental awareness. Caldera has grown from a small summer camp to a thriving year-round community that enriches thousands of young people’s lives annually.