Industry Mourns Passing Of Legendary Agency Creative Dan Wieden
Dan Wieden
  • PORTLAND, Ore.
  • --

When Dan Wieden was informed that he won the prestigious Cannes Lion of St. Mark in 2012, he remarked, “This is a pretty big honor. To be honest, I’ve always identified with that renown military leader, of whom it was said, his men would follow him anywhere. Mainly out of curiosity.”

Now that man, a legendary advertising creative whose work made so many curious--and eager for more--during his tenure at venerable agency Wieden+Kennedy, has died at the age of 77. Wieden, who passed away peacefully at his home in Portland on Friday (9/30), leaves behind an enduring legacy of creativity, connection and independence. He and his creative partner, the late David Kennedy, founded Wieden+Kennedy in 1982. Their goal was to create a different type of advertising agency--one where people could perform at their best without structures and bureaucracies, and where creativity would not be lost as the shop grew.

Wieden+Kennedy’s first client was the then upstart company Nike. After being told by Nike founder Phil Knight that he “didn’t believe in advertising,” Messrs. Wieden and Kennedy went on to make some of the greatest advertising ever made--but it didn’t feel like advertising, instead offering something more--entertainment, relevance, connection, food for thought while fueling curiosity. Wieden coined the now famed Nike mantra, “Just Do It.” 

Wieden grew up in Portland, graduated from the University of Oregon and worked briefly in public relations before applying his writing talents to the advertising business. Initially he wrote trade magazine copy for a timber company. He went on to meet Kennedy at McCann Erickson. And then they set out to change the face of communications as we know it at Wieden+Kennedy--for clients extending beyond Nike to the likes of Coca-Cola, Chrysler, Delta Airlines, ESPN, Heineken, Honda, Kraft, Levi’s, Old Spice and Procter & Gamble.

Wieden helped to launch the Cannes Titanium Lions in 2003 to honor groundbreaking ideas that point to a new direction--work that Wieden said “causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.”

Towards that end, SHOOT's recent preview of this year's Cannes Lions reflects Wieden's lasting influence. In that coverage, David Lubars, chief creative officer of BBDO Worldwide and president of the 2022 Cannes Film Lions jury, quipped that he’s become “too old and curmudgeonly to be on anyone else’s jury.” Hence his most recent jury duty experiences have been as president. However he recalled one eventful year when he wholeheartedly embraced a departure from his jury duty norm. It was in 2013 when Lubars happily stepped back from his usual capacity as a jury head to serve as a judge on the Titanium & Integrated Lions jury presided over by Wieden. Lubars cited his respect for and a debt of gratitude he owed Wieden who 10 years earlier as jury president bestowed the first ever Titanium Award upon “The Hire” series of BMW shorts out of Fallon, Minneapolis, back when Lubars was at that agency. The year before, the BMW films had been declared ineligible for Cannes because there wasn’t a category in place to recognize that kind of breakthrough work.

Getting back to that Lion of St. Mark honor 10 years ago, at that time Terry Savage, Cannes Lions chairman, observed, “Dan’s integrity and brilliance have inspired a generation and gained worldwide respect. While his work is much admired, his vision has reverberated across the industry, changing the course of brand marketing and redefining the structure of the business. We are extremely proud and honored to present Dan, one of the nicest people in the industry, with the Lion of St. Mark for his outstanding contribution to creativity in communications.”

Wieden is survived by his wife 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 family requests that remembrances be made as gifts to Caldera Arts, an arts and mentorship nonprofit founded by Wieden and his family in 1996.


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