Dan Wieden: Creatives are suffering from a sense of entitlement

DanWieden1 Dan Wieden, the man behind Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ tagline for iconic ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, has said “we will die before we sell” as he urged creatives to “rethink” the advertising business to create more interesting work.

Speaking at yesterday’s Communications Council’s leadership forum lunch in Sydney, Wieden told his audience: “You and I can do better. I believe my work and your work are getting a little too familiar. It’s good, it’s solid. Don’t get me wrong, I’m making money, you’re making money. But is this the best you and I can do? Are we living up to what we asked of ourselves back in the day?”

“I believe the problem we face is some sense of entitlement,” he said.

“Unfortunately we got into a groove, we developed a sensibility that was so fresh, so much fun, so precious and we learned how to reboot variations of it year after year. We treated this work like it was some sort of fine crystal.

“Maybe it’s time to break a little crystal,” he said.

His advice was for agencies to embrace chaos.

“Chaos does this amazing thing order cannot do,” he said.

“Chaos is the only thing that wants you to grow, the only friend that helps you be creative, that demands you be creative, so you can make something that matters,” he said.

“I kind of think that’s what our jobs should be,” he added.

He urged creative shops to focus on the creative – not on the money.

“What we need to be is a creative organisation, we don’t need to become a financial origination. Because if your first, most import thing is money, then you’ll run a typical business based on the income numbers that come into the shop.

“If you’re actually a creative organisation you’re going to judge the creativity that is being put out. We just voted to become a creative organisation instead of a financial organisation. Money serves creativity rather than creativity servicing money.”

When asked about the agency’s decision to remain independent he said: “We will die before we sell.”

“A couple of years ago we thought how can we make sure that no one sells this god-damned agency. So all the partners came together and we decided we were going to take our stock and put it into a trust and the executors of that trust have only one obligation to make sure it is absolutely impossible to sell this agency.”

When quizzed on if he’d ever open an office in Australia he said: “God no!”

“I’d love to have a place here to come and have an excuse to come, but eight is enough,” he said, referring to the agency’s offices in Portland, Amsterdam, New York, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi and Tokyo.

Miranda Ward 


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