Ajaz Ahmed, the CEO and the founder of the digital design and communications agency AKQA, honored the late Dan Wieden in a heartfelt note. Wieden, who cofounded the Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency, passed away on September 30, 2022 at the age of 77.
Ahmed addressed his team in a note following Wieden’s death, expressing sorrow and recalling memories of his own encounters with the late digital marketing icon.
Ahmed's Note to His Colleagues
With deep sadness, I learned this evening, that Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden+Kennedy, passed away on Friday. Dan was 77 and died peacefully with his wife by his side.
With his razor-sharp wit and piercing wisdom, Dan was an extraordinary inspiration to me.
His company became the world’s most influential advertising agency. As the largest independent, it paved the way, proving that size and skillfulness can be symbiotic.
At a time when many question consumerism, the attitude Dan set in motion is work that’s often more memorable than the products it promotes. But it is silence, not economics, that is the real crime.
Nike’s founder famously introduced himself to Dan’s agency with the declaration: “I’m Phil Knight, and I hate advertising.”
Dan would defy convention to present a major reassessment of what the profession could be.
He enabled Nike to discover its voice and use the power of that voice to build bridges, break boundaries, correct injustices, right societal wrongs and address prejudices — all the while inspiring more people to exercise.
We shared clients, geographies, and awards. We also shared an ethos.
At one point, we even had conversations about merging AKQA into W+K.
During one of these discussions, Dan gave me a tour of his stunning HQ in Portland, Oregon. I complimented him on the building. He spoke softly for someone who created a culture of exceptional work that makes so much noise. “The question is, who really owns this place?” he asked me. “You do, Dan,” I earnestly replied.
Realizing from his less-than-effusive expression that — as an apprentice — I had given the wrong answer, I corrected myself with a more considered response: “The people do, Dan. It’s for everyone.”
At this, the brightness reappeared in his eyes.
Dan always understood the inner bond that draws one person to another. He has given generations of artists, writers and directors a canvas.
Despite his agency’s phenomenal success and immeasurable contribution, Dan never lost track of the dignity of the human soul.
He said: “We need to get to kids who have no idea what we do. We need to open the doors wide and let them in. There are many undiscovered voices out there — voices that, against all odds, can rise up and enrich this culture and perhaps change the very nature of the marketplace for the better.”
In our hearts, in honor and remembrance of Dan Wieden — who helped shape the course of modern industry, and so many careers, including mine.
I will also be donating to Caldera, Dan’s foundation.”
Wieden leaves behind a monumental legacy that merits far more than a single news piece.
But if there’s one fragment of his vast career that’s always worth mentioning, it’s his formation of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan.
It’s only a single drop of water in Wieden’s ocean of creation, but one that immortalized both him and his ad agency.
Ahmed, his AKQA, and many other creatives and digital agencies find a great source of inspiration in Wieden’s work.
The new president of AKQA, Tesa Aragones, will certainly live up to the highest standards set by brilliant people that came before her, as proven by her track record at Nike.