By Emily Neelon, Communication, Class of 2017
“I’m here to make you fail. If you can’t fail, or at least give it your best shot, I’m never coming here again.”
Dan Wieden, CEO of Portland’s own integrative advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, spoke at University of Portland last week about the value of failure. After his first employer fired him, Wieden’s late wife gave him permission to fail, an idea he has carried wit him throughout his adult life.
Today, W+K runs of off the same fearless energy Wieden and David Kennedy had when they scraped together $500 a piece to begin their agency in 1982. Through “incredible stupidity”, the two creatives took on Nike as their first client, a partnership that began with W+K’s uncertainty of how to be an agency and Nike’s uncertainty of how to use an agency. Many years later, the agency has expanded into New York, London, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Tokyo, Delhi and Sao Paulo. Wieden describes the culture of W+K as one that prioritizes self-discipline over the institutionally mandated variety, encouraging its employees to “take on” failure.
Through error, regret and “stupidity”, W+K has become a communications powerhouse with a refreshing take on playing it safe.
Wieden’s last words:
“If it doesn’t feel risky”, that’s kind of boring.”