Independent agency Wieden & Kennedy, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, has a reputation as one of North America's finest creative agencies, originally as a result of its superb work over the years for key client Nike. During the late 1990s, the agency opened a clutch of international offices but was initially hit by a series of staff problems, as well as fickle clients. It had recovered from these by 2002, and has steadily broadened its global reach, initially to service Nike but subsequently adding other global clients such as Heineken (until 2015, when bizarrely the account moved away despite a series of uniformly excellent ads). As a result, Wieden & Kennedy's reputation is arguably as strong in Europe as it is in the US. Its offices in Amsterdam and London rank among the region's most creative agencies. Showing no sign of slowing down, the agency scored numerous successes during 2010 including landmark campaigns for Nike and Old Spice, which became the year's most talked-about ads. It has maintained that momentum ever since with a series of high-profile ads for a broad portfolio of clients both big and small.
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Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: "All People Are Tax People". It's that time again. Let's face it: doing your tax return isn't the highlight of anyone's year, not even your accountant's. But Wieden & Kennedy make it something close to a pleasure with witty and entertaining campaigns like this for Intuit TurboTax. They only come around once a year and are always worth the wait. They must have lots of fun conjuring up each of these little scenarios. Here's the anthem spot, but you can expect to see several more popping up over the next three months.
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Dec 2019: "Qiang Diao". Wieden & Kennedy Shanghai's splendid new film for Nike China plays a little like a sports-themed version of Guy Ritchie's 'Snatch' movie. "Qiang Diao" is a Mandarin word that means "swagger" or "confidence", and it's something you have to earn; not a quality you can just buy. So this Chinese gazillionaire is going to be disappointed when he sends off his minion to get him some. Needless to say, Nike's message is that the best way to earn yourself some qiang diao of your own is through sports. The extended ad is lots of fun.
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Oct 2019: "Achieve Gamefulness". It's rare enough that we feature a single HP ad campaign here, let alone two in the space of a week. However, this new series from Wieden & Kennedy Shanghai for the company's specialist Omen gamer PCs is spectacular in both concept and execution. And also, of course, inimitably Chinese in its sensibility. The underlying theme is interesting too: HP wants to argue that playing videogames helps people improve their mental focus, stamina and teamwork skills. "This job was an interesting mix of technical challenges," said Alex Mavor of director partnership The Sacred Egg. "It really had it all: a massive set build, heavy CGI, stunts... 60 lights choreographed to music and celebrity gamers." [Professional esports champs LoveZrr, Wink and AmazingJ make appearances]. "We always try to achieve an aesthetic that is unique to each project. This, in particular, was an amazing opportunity to create a brand universe with its own look, tone, characters and rules. Something that is entirely unique and ownable for Omen and which gamers want to be a part of."
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Sep 2019: "Let's Be Kids". Mattel's Fisher-Price pre-school toy range was one of the more unlikely advertisers in last night's Emmy Awards broadcast. Newly appointed Wieden & Kennedy unveiled a lavish 60-second anthem spot in which John Goodman took a stroll through every viewer's childhood imagination, populated of course by all those Fisher-Price toys you ever loved back then, and can enjoy again now with your own pre-schooler. Actually, though, we prefer the agency's great series of accompanying spots which re-imagine our favourite childhood toys for our adult selves. The John Goodman spot is fine but these are funnier and less cloying.
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Sep 2019: In a sizeable blow to Omnicom, McDonald's named Wieden & Kennedy NY as lead creative agency in the US, supplanting We Are Unlimited, the dedicated agency created specially for the fast feeder within DDB. The latter will continue to handle some assignments, but the bulk of the business moves to W&K. It's a big change for McDonald's which has traditionally consolidated all global marketing within Omnicom's DDB or TBWA networks or Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett.
Adbrands Daily Update 20th Jun 2019: Only three days in, and Nike collected its fourth grand Prix of the 2019 Cannes Lions with a clever Media campaign in Brazil, coordinated by AKQA and Wieden & Kennedy. AKQA got local graffiti artists to spraypaint an exclusive custom-designed pair of Nike Air Max trainers onto their work in different areas of Sao Paulo. Nike then told customers they could order the limited edition shoes via their app, but only from the location of the graffiti. A GPS signal from their smartphones confirmed their positions and opened a special ordering page in the app.
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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: W+K played an enormous part in the transformation of Nike from sneaker brand to global cultural icon in the 1990s. The agency was formed in 1982 in Portland, Oregon, by McCann-Erickson staffers Dan Wieden and David Kennedy. The sportswear company was their first client, and it was Wieden himself who coined Nike's legendary "Just Do It" slogan. Initial spend was just $1.5m annually. But as Nike's success and marketing budget grew, so did the amount of creative work it demanded; by 1996, W+K was delivering as many as 60 or 70 creative executions a year for the company when most advertisers would settle for around 10. In 1994, fast-expanding Microsoft picked W+K to create the ad campaign for Windows 95, which went on to become one of the most successful software launches ever.
The agency was famed for its obsessive approach to business. The company slogan was "The work comes first", and creatives were renowned for occasionally getting involved in shouting matches with clients who didn't sufficiently appreciate their work. This idiosyncratic approach seemed justified as W+K's ads propelled its clients into the upper reaches of corporate America. But as they got bigger, the clients began to experience their own shift in priorities. The passion still championed by W+K was less important than hitting quarterly sales targets, especially when all that meteoric growth began to plateau. Always a tough client, Microsoft became even more demanding, specifying endless revisions and insisting on an adherence to deadlines which didn't really sit with the agency's loose way of working.
There were also strains on the relationship with Nike. At the end of the decade Nike, along with all trainer manufacturers, began to see sales fall. Meanwhile after a long series of ads shot by film director Spike Lee and starring Michael Jordan (a campaign known in the industry as Spike and Mike for Nike), the agency had to find ways of doing Spike for Nike without Mike, because the basketball-turned-baseball superstar was no longer playing. In 1998, the sportswear company moved around a third of the account to rival agency Goodby Silverstein, and was said to have threatened a full account move unless W+K strengthened its presence in Europe.
W+K had opened an office in the Netherlands to service Nike at the start of the decade. Mid-1998 this team picked up a $35m account for merged German bank HypoVereinsbank. But a few weeks later a scandal erupted when it was alleged that three agency employees were working on a pitch for Nike's arch rival Adidas. (The staff members in question were dismissed, but later cleared of any wrongdoing. They set up on their own as 180 Amsterdam.)
All in all 1998 was not a good year. Reduced spend from Nike, as well as a shift of part of the account to rival Goodby Silverstein, knocked billings down to $800m, from a high of $875m in 1997. The agency laid off around 10% of staff. Meanwhile it had to work even harder to service Microsoft, embroiled in the first stages of its run-in with the US government over Netscape and other anti-trust issues. Some welcome good news came in the shape of the Diet Coke account, worth around $60m. But 1999 threatened to turn out even worse after Microsoft moved its entire account to McCann-Erickson. A month later Miller Brewing moved its Miller Genuine Draft account as well. After a mammoth effort, W+K won back the Goodby Silverstein portion of the Nike account at the end of the year.
Since then W+K's fortunes have remained volatile. In 2001, the agency's London office finally hit its stride, winning the prestigious Honda account in the UK. A few months later, however, the US agency was virtually booted off the prestigious Coca-Cola roster, losing all but the Powerade brand. US billings continued to tumble and W+K slipped out of the magic Top 50 in Advertising Age's US agency rankings for the year. Even so, the agency vowed it would not succumb to the temptation to sell out in order to win additional business, and clawed its way back into the 50 for 2002 and 2003. Performance has steadily continued to improve. In 2005, Wieden Kennedy achieved two major new business wins, taking clawing its way onto the Procter & Gamble roster for the first time, but more significantly taking control of the North American Classic Coke account, worth an estimated $150m in billings. At the same time however, the agency has struggled to keep other clients entirely satisfied, especially its demanding flagship account Nike. In 2007, the sports shoe giant transferred part of its creative business out of W+K and into Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Just over a year later, in June 2008, that decision was revered and the whole account was consolidated once again in W+K. See full profile for current activities
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