Don't miss the latest stories
David Kennedy Of Wieden+Kennedy’s Final Ad Before Passing Away On October 10
By Mikelle Leow, 13 Oct 2021
Image via American Indian College Fund
Advertising great David Kennedy, one part of the world’s largest independent advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, passed away on Sunday, October 10, at the age of 82.
Along with the announcement on Tuesday, some of the firm’s global offices reversed their names to read “Kennedy+Wieden” on social media.
David Kennedy, May 31, 1939 - October 10, 2021. Your legacy and spirit will live on forever in our hearts and our work. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/RtkwbzZf47— Kennedy+Wieden London (@WKLondon) October 12, 2021
Quite stirringly, Kennedy’s very last project was unintentionally published the day after he died, coinciding with Indigenous Peoples Day. This is Indian Country, created pro bono for the American Indian College Fund, took up an entire page of advertising space in the New York Times.
The adman was a longtime collaborator with the College Fund and served on its board of trustees.
Going further back, Kennedy was one of the catalysts behind Nike’s resonant Just Do It campaign. Fellow Wieden+Kennedy co-founder Dan Wieden came up with the tagline, and Kennedy, the art director, envisaged what it meant visually and emotionally. One could argue that it was this simple branding initiative that catapulted a previously unknown sportswear firm into the role of a global tastemaker.
It all began in a little basement room. The duo, fresh out of McCann-Erickson, started their own creative firm in 1982. Their office didn’t even have a telephone—they had to use a nearby payphone to converse with clients, Fast Company reports.
Kennedy’s roots were not in advertising. At age 13, he got his first job as a welder’s assistant, tracing the footsteps of his wildcat oil driller father and grandparents. In college, he studied geology, but discovered his love of the arts in the process.
It was when he and his family fatefully relocated in Portland, Oregon, that he would meet his business partner Dan Wieden.
“Dan deeply felt the loss of his longtime partner in business/in wild craziness/in brotherhood yesterday when he was informed of David Kennedy’s passing,” expressed Wieden’s wife Priscilla in a statement published by Ad Age. “Together they failed hard and succeeded huge and had more fun than they ever imagined along the way. As tears fell, he remembered the heart and soul of a good man, a man he loved.”
On Twitter, a commercial retoucher who goes by the moniker of Marco penned, “The work Wieden+Kennedy did for Nike in the 90s is why I became fascinated by advertising. The way they mixed graphics, photography, and video just blew my mind. To this day, I draw inspiration from that. So it is safe to say I owe this guy a lot.
So thank you, Mr. Kennedy.”
However, it wasn’t just his gifts in advertising that have left a mark in people’s lives. Kennedy was also remembered for his kindness, a respite in the high-pressure world of advertising.
“Everything I’ve ever heard of David Kennedy was, yes, of course, his enormous talent, but moreover his massive humanity and kindness,” wrote Thas Naseemuddeen, CEO of Canadian independent creative company Omelet. “Heroes are tough to come by in this business, but thank you for letting us have one.”
Wieden+Kennedy expressed: “[Kennedy’s] legacy and spirit will live on forever in our hearts and our work.”
To honor his lifework, Kennedy’s family has requested for any gifts dedicated to his memory to be directed to the American Indian College Fund.
[via The Drum, Fast Company, Ad Age, Patrick Coffee, images via various sources]
More related news
Also check out these recent news