Creativity Agency Culture India

In memory of Dan Wieden: 'He made me feel prouder about where I belonged'

By santosh padhi |

October 6, 2022 | 6 min read

Dan Wieden not only had a gift for creativity, but also for nurturing others to follow in his footsteps. Among them Santosh Padhi, who shares how an encounter with the the late advertising leader influenced his own independent agency, Taproot, and inspired him to join Wieden+Kennedy India as chief creative officer.

Dan Wieden

Dan Wieden inspired others to follow in his footsteps / Wieden+Kennedy

As a youngster, Wieden+Kennedy’s work used to make me feel that I was in the right industry. As I got older, the healthy competitiveness in me made me jealous every time the agency came up with an unexpected piece of work. When we were setting up the creative agency Taproot in 2009, W+K was my inspiration alongside BBH and Droga5. Not only were they all founded by creative people, but their work was also beyond the ordinary.

Hand to heart, I always leaned more towards W+K due to its new-age approach, distinguished brand voice and fearless eclectic creative culture, just everything. And the fact the agency did not care about the most unwanted industry chases. There was absolute clarity in the leaders' heads about what they were chasing and what they were not. It won't be wrong to say that Dave Kennedy and the late Dan Wieden changed the industry and certainly the approach towards our business.

On the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Lions festival in 2013, they managed to get some of the best creative minds in the business as the jury chairs.

While I had met my other two inspirational figures, John Hegarty and David Droga before, having had the fortune to judge and spend some time with them, the wish to meet dear Dan whose work touched me now and then had remained unfulfilled. Till that evening when post the stage event at Cannes, we spent some time together. I was converted to a bigger fan of his for life.

It was my fanboy moment. I asked him questions about their involvement as founders, how they managed to get talent in Portland in their early days, the magic sauce behind their body of work, characteristic offices, creative stars, culture etc.

He was patiently hearing me with a nice warm smile, and his opening line was, “I love your energy, your passion”. He also told me every individual, agency, culture, and the country is very different, and there is something inherently blessed! He took the conversation in a very different direction, it was not about WK or him, he started praising me and where I come from, how lucky I am, that I was born in a unique versatile country like India, which is intelligent, rich in culture and has a legacy of thousands of years. He added how amazingly the country is changing for good and how India will be a super powerful nation in the coming years. He even said he was jealous of me for being in the right country at the right time.

Honestly, after a point, I was speechless as it was so amazing to hear him talking to an Indian with some unique perspective with thorough knowledge about the right things in India. It made me think, how cynical and pessimistic we are when it comes to our nation. He made me feel a lot prouder that evening about where I belonged.

Later, I found out that he was a big fan of India, especially the spiritual, and philosophical side of India. He was a big follower of the great Jiddu Krishnamurti and his way of life and living. No wonder he spoke like an Indian guru that evening.

There was a great overlap between how W+K functioned and how we at Taproot operated, maybe somewhere when we started we borrowed and implemented consciously and subconsciously being big fans of W+K, be it people, culture, work ethics, freedom or the brave bold stance.

Well, that’s also one of my reasons to join W+K. I seriously thought I would meet him more often after joining the network and hear more praise from him about India, if not more often, then at least once a year in the global meetings.

I was fortunate to be part of a global management meeting on the third day of my joining in March this year, which was happening after a gap of two years due to Covid-19. I seriously thought I would see Dan, and was hoping he may just casually drop by, hence I was carrying a unique handmade Indian art piece, which was from my home town with an interesting story and legacy behind that art community. But since he was not keeping well and the tail of Covid-19 was still visible, he couldn’t make it to the meeting. Little did I know that 2013 was my first and last conversation with Dan the legend.

Santosh Padhi is the chief creative officer of W+K India

Creativity Agency Culture India

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