Wieden + Kennedy XXX: wit, wisdom and complaints


This little book landed on my desk today. It was put together by W+K Portland, with contributions from the whole network. It's a verbal snapshot of wieden + kennedy's 30th anniversary. It compiles opinions, reminiscences and observations about this place by the people who have made it what it is – the ones who have worked here.

Like it says, 'We have no idea where the next 30 years are going. We want to keep it that way because not knowing what we're doing is what we've been doing for 30 years.'

I've been peeking in my copy. It contains some stuff that's moving, some stuff that's funny  and some stuff that's just wrong. Which is about right for this place.


Here are a few anonymous nuggets from the book. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the management, etc.

Why do / did you work at W+K?

– Advertising is mostly pollution. It invades. It's self-important. It's arrogant. It's abusive, instructive, overwhelming, harmful, terrible, invasive, derisive, insulting, poison and Wieden + Kennedy gives you the chance to change all that.
– Nowhere else would have me
– Duh. I work at W+K because I enjoy a continual and unrelenting beatdown to the ego.
– So I don't have to get a real job.

What makes W+K tick?

– Chaos and balls.
– Happiness and danger.
– There's a vibration here. A hum. A kind of tremor that bubbles up from under your feet. You don't really know where it's coming from at any given time, you just know when you sense you're above it, when you feel it rattling your pelvic girdle, you try a whole lot fucking harder.

What advice would you give to a new employee?

– If you're wondering whose job it is to sort out That Thing – it must be yours.
– Come in, just try real hard and don't be a jerkface
– Hold on / fasten belt / attach helmet / hold your pee / speak your mind / be smart / be dumb / focus / wander / simplify / ambellish / trip / run fast / keep changing.

Dan says the work comes first. What does that mean?

– It means that the work is bigger than you, or me, or any of us. That we're here to create great work that solves client problems. And if someone (or something) is harming the work then golden rule number one is being broken.
– Talk is cheap. Get with the program. Do epic shit.
– He means working on Saturdays in September, without a second thought. He means being on a first name basis with the graveyeard shift security guard. He means that you've witnessed the caliber of work that has come out of this office for the last 30 years. You saw it on TV when you were in high school. You read about it on the Internet when you were at college. And you will take those images – embedded in your psyche – to the grave. And those images – funny or gruesome, flippant or brazen – were all the produce of extremely talented and uncompromising bulldogs who gave up a lot of Saturdays in September. And every other month of the year.
– Put some hot sauce on your famous self and see what happens.
– It means you don't have to give a shit about the bullshit.

What about W+K infuriates you?

– Crazy bosses that have way too much power
– Working Saturdays in September
– "None are more helplessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free" – Goethe

How would you explain W+K to an alien?

– You're not an alien round here, mate
– I can't even explain it to humans
– Beauty through chaos
– A lot like Burning Man, but with running water

What is the perhaps the most personal thing you can say about W+K?

– Working at W+K indirectly caused my divorce. Thank God.
– It was the one place I worked at that always felt like the patients were running the asylum, but it was a place that you would fake crazy in order to stay at the asylum as long as possible.

Does W+K have a social responsibility?

– 'Social responsibility' is one of those meaningless marketing catchphrases like 'best in breed' or 'buyersphere' or 'digital' and thus has no place at this agency.
– Yes. Everyone does. W+K has power, has a voice, is a cultural catalyst. With great power comes great responsibility.
– It's hard for an advertising agency to start talking of themselves in these terms. Hard because what they do is intrinsically socially irresponsible. Aside from the odd charity project, what we do is not making the world a better place, no matter how many rainbows you throw around. Sorry.
– Of course. Do good. Do good things, do good work. Maximise the number of places they intersect.
– Yes. The community that envelops us also helps inspire us. We pick our community and it welcomes us. We should both help each other.

What would you like to forget about W+K?

– Nothing. It's good to remember the shit times as well as the good times. The fuck ups. The 'not in a million years will they go for that' pitches. The 'did we really do that'? It makes you realise that failure is OK and that we don't get it right every time. The trick is to learn from your failures so that you don't repeat the same ones. When Dan first hired me he told me to 'break some eggs'. Th best times are when you are doing somehting you've never done before and are not sure if you're going to pull the damn thing off.
– That one party where everyone misbehaved. You know who you are. Secretly, we're proud of you though.

What is the definition of 'fail harder'?

– Go out on that fuckin' limb. Even if it breaks.
– Fail Harder is another way of saying, "have some cojones". It means having the courage to try something new and different, even (or especially) if you know others will mock or ridicule you. It's a reminder that creating something special is far more fulfilling than always being 'right' or 'perfect'.

That's all for now. Will maybe post some more when I have time.

New Creative Hires

W+K London is happy to announce the hiring of Creatives Dave Goss and Ollie Wolf from Saatchi & Saatchi and Jonny Plackett from BETC London.

Plackett is joining as a senior creative and will work across all our clients, with a particular focus on integrated and interactive projects.

Graeme Douglas, Head of Interactive at W+K, said “we're delighted Jonny is joining us. Today many claim not to draw a distinction between analogue and digital in their work, but a precious few actually deliver ideas that substantiate this. With a traditional creative background fused with self-taught coding ability – a thinker and a doer – Jonny's at the forefront of this group, and we can't wait for him to join us on our quest to push our clients further, faster”

Whilst at BETC, he launched TheArtistifier.com which makes any YouTube video instantly award-winning, and won Campaign's Daredevil competition last month with the world's first flammable banner for Cockburn. Before then he worked at Albion for 6 years, creating the popular website Slapometer.com, encouraging voters to slap their least favorite politician, and CuervoCold.com, a live OKGO gig made out of the profiles of people tweeting about it.

Wolf and Goss join W+K from Saatchi & Saatchi and will work across all accounts as a creative team. They previously created global work for Visa, including its “Team GB” spot, as well as the launch for last year’s San Miguel campaign, “A life well lived.” They were campaign faces to watch in 2011 and Diageo scholarship winners before that. Prior to Saatchi's they worked at DHM for 3 years.


New work from W+K Portland: Target, Chrysler, Powerade

Sharing some new work from our esteemed colleagues at Wieden + Kennedy Portland.

First up: Target 'Young Avengers'. Target reminds you that there's really nothing better than that feeling of play, that picking up an action figure or putting on a t-shirt can instantly take you from ordinary citizen to world's mightiest hero. Keep the faith, true believers.

Chrysler 'The Second Half'. As part of the continuation of the "It's Halftime in America" campaign (you know, the one with Clint Eastwood) we introduce "The Second Half". The spots are inspired by stories we've heard from people across the country, showing the things Americans are doing every day to move forward and win their own second half.

And finally, Powerade 'The Dance'. Launching during college basketball season's 'March Madness', this ad tells the story of a coach motivating an underdog team as they prepare to compete against the tournament favourites. "We're not here for the cameras, foam fingers, funnel cakes, new-age uniforms or faulty expectations. We are here to disrupt this show, take ownership of the rims and finish what we started."