David Kennedy, the softspoken perfectionist whose direction and talent helped build Wieden & Kennedy into a national competitor and shape what is arguably the most famous ad campaign" data-categories = "" data-popup = "" data-ads = "Yes" data-company = "[]" data-outstream = "yes" data-auth = "" >

WIEDEN & KENNEDY By Kathy Tyre

David Kennedy, the softspoken perfectionist whose direction and talent helped build Wieden & Kennedy into a national competitor and shape what is arguably the most famous ad campaign

Kennedy had gradually taken a less active role in day-to-day management of the agency and is regarded as the more contemplative partner, but his absence from the shop he helped found 11 years ago will nonetheless leave a void. ‘The standard of excellence that his presence alone demands of people is incredible, and the respect people have for his opinions is enormous,’ said Wieden. ‘A lot of people in the agency were very shocked that David was leaving. There’s going to be a period of adjustment.’
‘Dan is the creative visionary; David is the nurturing, father figure,’ said agency producer Bill Davenport. ‘David grounded Dan. Dan gets excited about the ideas. David decides if the idea should be carried out.’
While the shop’s young creatives said both partners could be relied on as mentors, it is Kennedy who’s most often credited with developing talent. ‘If you look at a Michael Prieve (the art director responsible for the Andre Agassi tennis campaign), who’s only been here four years and has just shot up, a lot of what made him was David Kennedy,’ director of account services Dave Luhr said.
As has been the practice at the agency, which has remained relatively unstructured even as it’s grown into a $240-million shop, there is no formal succession plan in place. ‘We probably will restructure a little bit differently, or I’ll just float loose,’ said the 48-year-old Wieden, who has been the most visible of the two partners over the years. However, there has been some restructuring in creative and account management at the agency to help ensure that W&K would remain independent – owned and run by employees – long after the principals had both gone.
As part of a succession plan, Wieden and Kennedy last year gave partnerships to Luhr; producer Bill Davenport; cd/art director Susan Hoffman, in Amsterdam; and cd/copywriter Jim Riswold.
‘We were very conscious in the beginning about making sure the agency would remain creatively focused,’ Wieden explained. ‘That’s why three of the four people we named partners are creatives.’
Clients said that training will serve the agency well. ‘There are scores of people who work for (Wieden and Kennedy) who are more visible and contribute a great deal to the account,’ said Nike director of advertising Scott Bedbury.
And Wieden won’t be far away. He plans to continue working on the shop’s PSA account, the American Indian College Fund, even after his official retirement.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)