David Kennedy, Co-Founder of Wieden+Kennedy, Dies At 82

We were saddened to learn of the death of David Kennedy, who passed away on Sunday October 10, the agency has confirmed. Wieden+Kennedy reversed its name as a tribute to its co-founder, a true advertising legend.

Kennedy began his career in Chicago, working for agencies including Leo Burnett and Young & Rubicam. In 1979 he moved Portland, Oregon to work for McCann Erickson.

It was in Portland, of course, that he and Dan Wieden founded their agency in 1982, with resources so limited that they had to run out and use a payphone. Their fortunes changed when they began working with Phil Knight and his intriguing athletic shoe company, Nike. 

Lifelong passion

David Kennedy’s entry in the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Fame provides some details of his early life. “[He] grew up in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Colorado, and every other state along the Eastern front range of the Rockies….He had an idyllic, Tom Sawyer childhood, fishing trout streams and rivers…At 13, his first job was as an apprentice welder, a craft that was to become a lifelong passion. He went on to attend the University of Colorado, where he received a Fine Arts Degree in printmaking and metal sculpture.”

Kennedy continued his art after retiring from advertising in 1995, although he regularly returned to the agency to work on a pro bono project, the American Indian College Fund.

In another Hall of Fame entry, this time for the ADC, Dan Wieden himself observed that his friend and business partner's Indian name was “Wichasha Owayakepi Chunta, which is Lakota for He Who Sees the World With His Heart.”

The agency’s homage on social media read: David Kennedy, May 31, 1939 - October 10, 2021. Your legacy and spirit will live on forever in our hearts and our work.”


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