Ad Executive Dan Wieden Came Up With Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ Tagline
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Ad Executive Dan Wieden Came Up With Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ Tagline

Oregon native, who has died at age 77, co-founded Wieden+Kennedy and advised colleagues to ‘walk in stupid every morning’

Thu, Oct 6, 2022 9:20amGrey Clock 3 min

One thing Dan Wieden didn’t want to do as a young man was to follow his father into the advertising business. “I could never figure out why he was in such a whorish industry,” Mr. Wieden told Adweek magazine in 2003.

In the mid-1960s, he majored in journalism at the University of Oregon. He married young and had children in his 20s. That meant a need for steady income and led to advertising. The challenge of packing a lot of meaning into a few words hooked him. In 1982, he joined David Kennedy to found the ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, based in Portland, Ore.

They had one client: Nike Inc., then a small company. It was a perfect fit. Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder, loathed conventional advertising. The new agency’s founders were inclined to pitch ads that were offbeat, edgy and artistic. In 1988, Mr. Wieden came up with Nike’s tagline, “Just Do It.”

The Nike ads helped vault a tiny regional shop into a global advertising firm. Subaru of America hired Wieden+Kennedy in 1991. Since then a long list of clients has included Starbucks Corp., Microsoft Corp., McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. The firm has about 1,500 employees and offices in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

To avoid the risk of being gobbled up by a giant holding company, Mr. Wieden created a trust to preserve the firm’s independence.

Mr. Wieden died Sept. 30 at his home in Portland. He was 77 and had Alzheimer’s disease. His partner, Mr. Kennedy, died a year ago at the age of 82.

Mr. Wieden (pronounced why-den) attributed the firm’s success partly to a habit of hiring misfits and oddballs rather than seasoned advertising pros. As for managing people, he said, “I think people need to feel safe but still under pressure in some weird way, a healthy pressure. People need to feel that you’re rooting for them to succeed.”

Wary of complacency, he advised advertising people to “walk in stupid every morning.” As he put it: “The minute you think you know, the minute you go, ‘oh, yeah, we’ve been here before, no sense reinventing the wheel,’ you stop learning, stop questioning, and start believing in your own wisdom, you’re dead.”

Messrs. Wieden and Kennedy “didn’t really dictate or mandate,” said Bill Davenport, a longtime colleague. “They let people find their way. In some ways, it was a sink-or-swim culture. But they never had a heavy hand.”

Dan Gordon Wieden was born March 6, 1945, and grew up in Portland. His father, Francis “Duke” Wieden, was president of Gerber Advertising.

After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1967, the younger Mr. Wieden wrote marketing material for Georgia-Pacific Corp. He hated the job and, by his own admission, created so much trouble that he finally got fired. He tried freelance writing and then joined the ad firm of McCann-Erickson. There he met Mr. Kennedy, whose artistic skills and humor complemented Mr. Wieden’s writing talent.

At first, their office was furnished with a card table and cardboard file cabinets. They used a pay phone to call clients.

The firm set itself apart by using a collage of New York street scenes, featuring Lou Reed and his song “Walk on the Wild Side,” to promote Honda scooters. A few years later, Wieden+Kennedy combined the versatile athlete Bo Jackson with Bo Diddley in an ad for Nike.

Mr. Wieden’s first wife, Bonnie Scott Wieden, died in 2008. He married Priscilla Bernard in 2012. She survives him, along with four children, six grandchildren, a brother and a sister.

In 1996, Mr. Wieden and his family founded , which runs a summer camp at Blue Lake in central Oregon and other programs to nurture young people. “He wanted to create a place where kids felt safe and loved,” his wife said.


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What We Fight About When We Fight About Money

New research tackles the source of financial conflict and what we can do about it

Mon, Nov 27, 2023 3 min

When couples argue over money, the real source of the conflict usually isn’t on their bank statement.

Financial disagreements tend to be stand-ins for deeper issues in our relationships, researchers and couples counsellors said, since the way we use money is a reflection of our values, character and beliefs. Persistent fights over spending and saving often doom romantic partnerships: Even if you fix the money problem, the underlying issues remain.

To understand what the fights are really about, new research from social scientists at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a unique data set: more than 1,000 posts culled from a relationship forum on the social-media platform Reddit. Money was a major thread in the posts, which largely broke down into complaints about one-sided decision-making, uneven contributions, a lack of shared values and perceived unfairness or irresponsibility.

By analysing and categorising the candid messages, then interviewing hundreds of couples, the researchers said they have isolated some of the recurring patterns behind financial conflicts.

The research found that when partners disagree about mundane expenses, such as grocery bills and shop receipts, they tend to have better relationships. Fights about fair contributions to household finances and perceived financial irresponsibility are particularly detrimental, however.

While there is no cure-all to resolve the disputes, the antidote in many cases is to talk about money more, not less, said Johanna Peetz, a professor of psychology at Carleton who co-authored the study.

“You should discuss finances more in relationships, because then small things won’t escalate into bigger problems,” she said.

A partner might insist on taking a vacation the other can’t afford. Another married couple might want to separate their previously combined finances. Couples might also realize they no longer share values they originally brought to the relationship.

Recognise patterns

Differentiating between your own viewpoint on the money fight from that of your partner is no easy feat, said Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family psychotherapist in San Francisco. Where one person sees an easily solvable problem—overspending on groceries—the other might see an irrevocable rift in the relationship.

Faupl, who specialises in helping couples work through financial difficulties, said many partners succeed in finding common ground that can keep them connected amid heated discussions. Identifying recurring themes in the most frequent conflicts also helps.

“There is something very visceral about money, and for a lot of people, it has to do with security and power,” he said. “There’s permutations on the theme, and that could be around responsibility, it could be around control, it could be around power, it could be around fairness.”

Barbara Krenzer and John Stone first began their relationship more than three decades ago. Early on in their conversations, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based couple opened up about what they both felt to be most important in life: spending quality time with family and investing in lifelong memories.

“We didn’t buy into the big lifestyle,” Krenzer said. “Time is so important and we both valued that.”

For Krenzer and Stone, committing to that shared value meant making sacrifices. Krenzer, a physician, reduced her work hours while raising their three children. Stone trained as an attorney, but once Krenzer went back to full-time work, he looked for a job that let him spend the mornings with the children.

“Compromise: That’s a word they don’t say enough with marriage,” Krenzer said. “You have to get beyond the love and say, ‘Do I want to compromise for them and find that middle ground?’”

Money talks

Talking about numbers behind a behaviour can help bring a couple out of a fight and back to earth, Faupl said. One partner might rue the other’s tightfistedness, but a discussion of the numbers reveals the supposed tightwad is diligently saving money for the couple’s shared future.

“I get under the hood with people so we can get black-and-white numbers on the table,” he said. “Are these conversations accurate, or are they somehow emotionally based?”

Couples might follow tenets of good financial management and build wealth together, but conflict is bound to arise if one partner feels the other isn’t honouring that shared commitment, Faupl said.

“If your partner helps with your savings goals, then that feels instrumental to your own goals, and that is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” he said.

A sense of mission

When it comes to sticking out the hard times, “sharing values is important, even more so than sharing personality traits,” Peetz said. In her own research, Peetz found that romantic partners who disagreed about shared values could one day split up as a result.

“That is the crux of the conflict often: They each have a different definition,” she said of themes such as fairness and responsibility.

And sometimes, it is worth it to really dig into the potentially difficult conversations around big money decisions. When things are working well, coming together to achieve these common goals—such as saving for your own retirement or preparing for your children’s financial future—will create intimacy, not money strife.

“That is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” she said.


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