WK12 is an experimental school housed within Wieden+Kennedy’s Portland headquarters. Only open to 13 students a year, the school — disguised as an ad agency, has been able to gather some of the country’s most talented individuals seeking to express their craft under one of the world’s most successful ad agencies. Known for composing some of Nike’s most innovative campaigns, W+K brought life to the Just Do It, I am not a role model, and Bo Knows spots. Their current claim to fame can be found within their work with Old Spice — which stars a cool, nonchalant and sometimes an equestrian-chic, Isaiah Mustafa.
Now why was I in Portland last weekend? Turns out, I was (humbly) selected as one of the final 26 applicants chosen to spend the weekend in Portland with current WK12 students and W+K staff. Hopefuls from all over the country were flown to The City of Roses to meet, greet and get familiar with brains behind W+K. The weekend also provided as the final stage of the selection process; where 13 members will be chosen to succeed the current WK12.6 class. It was an honor to spend the weekend with so many great minds. Who’ll make the final 13 and be named WK12.7? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
This is Dan Wieden, co-founder of W+K along with his long time friend and collaborator, David Kennedy. He’s the man responsible for coining Nike’s culture moving “Just Do It” slogan. He’s pretty much shaped the way we digest the modern world of advertising. Just being in his presence was inspiring. In an open discussion, Wieden fielded questions about the humble beginnings of W+K and shared his thoughts about the current state of advertising and some of the social conflicts between the advertising industry and its audience.
Wieden also revealed the story behind the Just Do It slogan and its grim connection to the execution of convicted murderer, Gary Gilmore. The story reveals that before Gilmore was sent off to be executed, he was asked if he had any last words. Gilmore simply replied, “Let’s do it”. Wieden felt that that the gusty reply related well with the physical hurdles that athletes face on a daily basis. Wieden then replaced the word “Let’s” with “Just”, and the rest is history.
I have a fondness for well-built spaces. The Wieden+Kennedy headquarters was constructed by Portland’s Allied Works Architecture firm under the direction of Brad Cloepfil. Its concrete laid construction reminded me a lot of the Salk Institute in San Diego by Louis Kahn.
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