Happy 25th Birthday to Nike's 'Just Do It,' the Last Great Advertising Slogan W+K celebrates a milestone

It's worth noting that "Just do it" is not a typical feel-good marketing tagline. There's a hard-edged, suck-it-up aspect to the phrase that runs counter to most advertising pablum. It's empowering but makes no promises, implying, in fact, that tough, hard work and personal sacrifice might be involved. On that level, it's an honest slogan, more so than most, and that's a big part of its appeal.

Perhaps the line's attitude stems from its ironic and unlikely origin. Wieden says he channeled, of all pop-culture figures, double murderer Gary Gilmore, who in 1977 became the first American executed in a decade, and famously told his executioners "Let's do it!" before facing the firing squad. That says something about the obscure, inexplicable nature of creativity—and brings me to my final point about why we might never see a slogan on the magnitude of "Just do it" again.

Big data doesn't necessarily kill big ideas, but it can thwart inspiration by attempting to quantify the unquantifiable. Because media is so splintered compared to 25 years go, brands will continue to target based on statistics, eschewing bold strokes for brief inroads in the hope of quick sales. Few creative teams "just do it" these days. They study, filter and refine their ideas into narrow bits of communication—lists, memes, apps—which, while seemingly focused and on point, are ultimately fleeting and insubstantial, little more than static.

"Just do it" belongs to an era when brands were brave enough to run with their visions and invite consumers to dream along with them.

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