New Delhi: Dan Wieden, 63, the man who coined the Just Do It phrase and helped build the Nike brand, was in New Delhi over the weekend to review the operations of the India arm of Oregon, US-headquartered Wieden+Kennedy, the global advertising agency he co-founded with David Kennedy in 1982. In India, Wieden+Kennedy doesn’t handle Nike’s account, but it will shortly have “some sort of an arrangement”. Wieden said his agency has benefited from the economic slump as firms have gone for new tie-ups. In India, Wieden+Kennedy will expand slowly and will also enter the country’s art business, he said. Edited excerpts:
‘Just do It’: Dan Wieden coined the phrase and helped build the brand
How important is the India unit for Wieden+Kennedy?
Very... We expect it to be crucial in the near future.
Are you looking at working with some of your loyal clients such as Nike and Honda here?
We are going to have a look at it... We plan to have some sort of an arrangement with Nike in India (currently, the Nike account in the country is with WPP Group Plc. and JWT).
What kind of an arrangement?
It’s not clear, yet.
You came to India largely for the Nokia account. Some say Nokia commercials aren’t as creative as Nike ads, that they are stale.
I think every client has its own voice and we know Nike has theirs and Nokia theirs... and we have done excellently well (in handling Nike account worldwide).
Are you looking at entering into the art market here?
We aren’t very ambitious. It’s much more of a curatorial venture. We will start small and see how it grows. We are patient. We know we are here for some time.
How important is business ethics of clients for you?
Very. It is incredibly important. Our mission statement says we are an agency that creates strong and provocative relationships between good companies and their consumers. Nike has in the past used children to make shoes in some Asian countries.
Nike didn’t do it. The subcontractors did it. That, however, devastated Nike and the agency (Wieden+Kennedy)... But if you look at how Nike handled that... they are now leading the industry in bringing labour relations to a much better position.
How satisfied are you with Wieden+Kennedy India?
I am very happy. But every time we open a new office, it takes us a while to integrate well with the local culture and we are financially very conservative.
How far has this downturn affected you?
It is interesting because unlike the dot-com crash where everybody just froze in places, this time there has been an upheaval. There are a lot of pitches and businesses up for grabs. So, we have actually benefited from that.
Could you explain?
Primarily because people are looking for different relationships and so we have benefited from that though the fees have come down in some cases.
Is the financial outlook for the agency bright?
Well, I am not a soothsayer, but my general sense is that this time next year will be much better.
Have you ever thought that they have confined you to Just Do It?
I am fine with that (laughs). That was really a satisfactory one.
Aren’t there better ad lines from you that are overshadowed by this one?
It is very funny because we have never given huge importance for headlines. We had created a bunch of ads (for Nike). Six of them. There are nothing much in common. And I thought we needed something to put them together and then came Just Do It.
Did you meditate over it?
It was a casual thing. I wrote five possible lines that I thought should appeal to both the highly intellectual group and others. I have told this before—it was Gary Gilmore who came to my mind. He was a murderer and he was executed by the firing squad in the US. Just before they put the hood over his face, they asked if he had any last words and he said “Let’s do it.” I thought how much courage it takes to do and say what you want to do. So I changed it to Just Do It.
It became part of history.
In a funny way it did.