Independent Wieden & Kennedy, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is widely regarded as one of the world's finest creative agencies, originally as a result of its superb work over the years for founding 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 blue chip global clients. As a result, Wieden & Kennedy's reputation is arguably as strong in Europe or Asia as it is in the US. Its offices in Amsterdam and London rank among the region's most admired agencies, and there also outposts in China, India, Japan and Brazil. It is the only remaining privately owned agency to operate a truly global network. Dan Wieden still serves as chairman emeritus and majority owner of the business, but day-to-day management is overseen by Tom Blessington, who replaced Dave Luhr as chairman at the beginning of 2021 alongside Susan Hoffman. Chief creative officer Colleen DeCourcy was named as Adweek's Agency Creative Leader of the Decade at the end of 2019, but announced her retirement at the end of 2021. Karl Lieberman succeededs her as global CCO. AdAge estimated global revenues of $339m for the group in 2020, including $242m in the US. The agency was originally formed in 1982 in Portland, Oregon, by former 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. Although, the agency still retains its original name, Kennedy retired from the business in 1993 (and passed away in 2021). Dan Wieden remains chairman emeritus of the agency, and is still closely involved in the business on a non-executive basis.
Capsule checked 29th September 2021
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Marketer Moves 13th Dec 2021: Creative chief and president Colleen DeCourcy retires from Wieden & Kennedy. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jul 2021: "Our Collective Health". Wieden & Kennedy are behind US drugmaker Eli Lilly's new marketing push. It's the company's first ever corporate TV campaign, and will debut in the US during the opening ceremony for the 2020 Olympics this week. It's a tough message, but one that needs to be conveyed. "Watching the success of our athletes will once again give the impression that America is the healthiest country in the world. We aren't. But we can be." Lilly is a sponsor of Team USA and has signed partnerships with individual athletes whose lives have been touched by illness to tell their stories too. High jumper Chaunté Lowe, for example, is a breast cancer survivor, while gymnast Laurie Hernandez's father has type 2 diabetes. Powerful stuff.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Jun 2021: "The Land of New Football". Wieden & Kennedy's new football campaign for Nike is timed to coincide with the current UEFA Euros tournament of course. However, one of its main themes is to tackle the rising issue of gender politics in football, with a call for greater inclusivity. That's no bad thing but does it really belong in an ad? We're reluctant to get embroiled in a big conversation here, but as a few incidents at the Euros already demonstrate, there's a danger that sponsors may come to regret the power they are giving athletes to voice an opinion. It used to be said that sport should be above politics, but that's increasingly not the case. Taking the knee is just one of the most visible examples. Meanwhile, England player Marcus Rashford - who gets a star cameo here - has made a name for himself at home with his views on free school meals for disadvantaged kids, prompting a political U-turn by the Conservative Government. That's definitely a force for good, but no previous footballer has had anything like as significant an impact. Go from there to Cristiano Ronaldo's recent removal of product placement by Euros sponsor Coca-Cola in a recent TV interview, which in turn prompted practising muslim Paul Pogba to do the same thing with another sponsor, Heineken. Do sponsors really want their brand ambassadors to say what they think? What comes next? What happens when a well-known sporting figure, emboldened by his or her elevation to such heights of influence, strays into the area of national or religious politics, and offers views that are even more controversial?
Marketer Moves 10th Jun 2021: New ECDs at Wieden & Kennedy Portland. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 5th May 2021: "Love Leads To Good". As the countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics belatedly begins, Procter & Gamble launches its corporate sponsorship campaign for the Games, led once again by Wieden & Kennedy. I'm sure I don't need to tell you by now but this extended anthem film is definitely a four-hankie job. There will be tears, my friend. As before, W&K focus on the binding relationship between athletes and their mothers, who provide all those essential years of support and love - sometimes a bit of tough love - that transform any sportsperson from competitor to potential champion. Fine, fine work, as we have come to expect from this lifelong Gold medallist among creative agencies.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Mar 2021: "Drink True". So long, dancing babies... Danone's flagship mineral water Evian has quietly shifted its global account from longtime holder BETC to Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam. That agency unveils its first work for the brand this week with not one but two powerful campaigns. (Why, though, launch both simultaneously? Seems like a shame not to give each its due.) The more traditional of the pair has teenaged freeskier Manon Loschi takes us on a guided tour into the mountains where Evian is naturally filtered before emerging from its source. However, the starrier of the two spots marks what is probably the first mainstream commercial endorsement by Anglo-Kosovan superstar Dua Lipa, performing a cappella (more or less) for your listening pleasure.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Dec 2020: The Visa creative review ended in triumph for Wieden & Kennedy, which will take over from BBDO (in the Americas and Asia) and Saatchi & Saatchi (in Europe) as lead global creative agency. Media remains with Publicis-owned Starcom, and the Groupe has also been retained for local creative implementation and production, filling for W&K where that agency doesn't have a regional presence.
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