Dan Wieden: Digital revolution will ‘transform us or render us inert’

Ad industry stalwart and Wieden+Kennedy co-founder Dan Wieden has revealed that the challenge of integrating the digital revolution into the advertising world will either transform the agency or “render us inert”.

Speaking to The Drum following his appearance at the Design Indaba Conference, Wieden, who famously coined the Nike tagline ‘Just Do It’, admitted that Wieden+Kennedy is still in the middle of trying to understand how the two different cultures can best integrate their talents to succeed in the industry.

“The digital revolution has just blown the doors off communications systems and it’s not like we’re suddenly into a different stable situation, it just keeps on changing and changing and changing,” he said.

“It’s quite challenging – it’s like entering one new world after another. We’re in the middle of that process, there’s tensions and triumphs and all that kind of messy stuff that feels really, really good to me. I love messes.”

Wieden said that despite the agency realising “early on” that it needed to hire digital specialists, it began doing so “like crazy”, which left both parties confused about their roles at the digital crossroads.

“We didn’t know what to do with them and they didn’t know what to do with us,” he revealed. “A lot of them stayed on and many went on to another place; they loved working with us but we didn’t know how to integrate what was going on.”

Fast forward two years and the hiring of Coleen DeCourcy, and that process is well underway. However, the agency still feels the pressure, which Wieden described as a “momentous occasion” for which there is no quick fix.

“These fluctuations at Wieden+Kennedy are creating big ripples. The non-equilibrium will either transform us or render us inert. We’ll either break down or we’ll break through.”

Notwithstanding these challenges, Wieden was keen to dismiss the notion that creativity at the agency has been negatively impacted.

“Oh god no,” he refuted. “Because of the challenge, and because the reality is changing all the time it just speeds up your ability to be agile and creative.”

Natalie Mortimer

Natalie is The Drum's fashion, design, luxury and food & drink reporter.

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