The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

If Clarke Kent Was Old, Would He Look Like Dan Wieden?
January 31, 2011, 6:09 am
Filed under: Comment

So last week we had Mr Wieden in town and I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time with him. [Probably not a mutual reaction]

The thing that really struck me was just how sharp he was.

I’m not saying that because …

1/ I’m a creeping shit.
2/ I thought he’d be a thicko.
3/ I believe anyone with a white beard should be in incontinence pants.

… I’m saying it because in about 3 seconds, he clearly demonstrated why he was able to create something so good.

I’ve always said the best creatives are often the best planners [see what I did there?] and he proved it time and time again because he not only got to the heart of any issue being discussed in the blink of an eye, he was able to work out what the solution/reason was and convey his answer/opinion with the minimum amount of time/effort/energy as possible.

M&C may claim they are all about brutal simplicity, but they have absolutely nothing on him … and he can do it with more charm, grace and colour than those lovers of black & white.

There was a Q&A session and someone asked him:

“What made you decide to start W+K”

In an instant, he replied ..

“My boss was an asshole”.

That’s it.

No talk about a desire to create a place where creativity could flow or where he could empower companies to reach greater heights, he summed it up in 5 words – FIVE WORDS – and while I am sure there were a bunch of other factors that helped him at least shape what he wanted W+K to be, the fact is he was able to pinpoint the actual heart of the issue and express it in a way that left people in no doubt what motivated his action.

OK … OK … maybe he’s well rehearsed in that answer, but even if that was the case, it was glorious to witness especially as it takes me 57,000 words just to say hello. [Though my excuse is I’ve never claimed to be a good planner, ha!]

You know the other thing I liked?

You only feel his presence when he’s talking to you.

I should explain that a bit better shouldn’t I!

Dan Wieden is a lovely man.

He might be a genuine – and deserved ‘god’ of adland – but he is a top guy.

I like that.

He is a human first and a brilliant ad person second.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few ‘icons’ in their fields and they’ve all generally had the same trait … which is possibly why so many people want to work for them.

But here’s the thing, when you are talking about work – especially his agencies work – then you feel the presence, the super-super-sharpness, the take-no-prisoners or bullshit. It’s exhilarating and petrifying at the same time.

As I wrote here, if you didn’t know who he was and had a chat with him in the street, it would be easy to walk away thinking you’ve just met a nice, everyday guy who seemed pretty passionate about people and creativity – however every now and then – when the right questions are asked [or should I say the wrong questions are asked] you get a glimpse of how he may tolerate many things, but low standards are not one of them.

The best way to describe it is this …

Imagine you are slagging someone off and then they opened their jacket to reveal a shiny revolver with the safety catch on ‘off’.

That’s how a pissed off Dan Wieden makes you feel.

Maybe I’m a sicko but I like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the idea I would be the cause of it, but I like that he’s accommodating on many things except standards.

I genuinely think that’s what helps make W+K great and why I feel fucking scared to be here … but scared in a good way … in a way that makes me want to try even harder to do stuff that makes him take a big gulp and break out into a sweat when he sees/hears/experiences it.

But hopefully for the right reasons … but maybe not always … which is why I stupidly liked that he said “You’re Fired” to me after I had told him what I was going to be doing – though he said it while smiling, so I’m telling myself he was joking and will still turn up to work even though there is a nagging concern that the grin on his face was because he was happy to see the back of me rather than simply being mischievous.

37 Comments so far
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Would you have been happy with any other response?

Comment by Chris

Wonderful! Over a long time I’ve worked for four people who have compelled that desire to deliver something really remarkable. And, yes, the four were people you would have an interesting conversation with in the hardware store without knowing their stature in our industry.
And while they settled for nothing less, after a while you realize that they were also doing it for you.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

The mantra at W+K is to ‘do the best work of your life’ and I love that, especially as the people they hire [excluding me, of course] have very high aspirations – which is why I won’t be happy until we launch W+K Cars or Planes.

[That was for you Andy]

Comment by Rob

accept it campbell, he fucking sacked you and no amount of fucking ass licking blog post is going to get him to change his mind. my admiration for the fucker has gone up ten fold but he still needs a fucking talking to for giving you the job in the first fucking place.

Comment by andy@cynic

and why the fuck am i the 3rd person to write on here today? if chris and ciaran are not fucking careful, people will think they are even more fucking sad than billy.

Comment by andy@cynic

for the fucking record, anyone with a white beard absofuckinglutely should be in incontinence pants.

Comment by andy@cynic

All the best people turn into motherfuckers when they discuss the standards they demand from their company. You were hardly Mr Accommodating Rob and you were 5000 miles behind Dan’s talent, success or welcoming face.

Comment by DH

you sound like youre saying rob was one of those saint/motherfucker types dave when we all know hes just one great big motherfucker.

and campbell, yes i did see what you “did there” and it proves youre a tit of the highest fucking proportions.

Comment by andy@cynic

and hes about 5,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles behind dan.

Comment by andy@cynic

I seem to remember a certain bad mouthed creative telling the team “there’s nothing worth feeling proud about if you make money through low standards” so don’t go saying I was the only one who had Elton John tantrum moments thank you very much.

Comment by Rob

Without standards you have little worth getting up for in the morning. Good to know you feel you made the right choice.

Comment by Lee Hill

Just because I’ve been standing vigil since 3:00 PM
EST waiting for the posting, there’s no need for you to come on all pissed off. What kind of fucking name is andy anyway.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

youre taking the piss out of my fucking name? what the fuck is ciaran? its like toni or terri, sounds more fucking birds name than blokes. but you told your neighbour to fuck off and me mam told me never to be rude to the elderly so youre alright by me.

Comment by andy@cynic

and why the fuck do you always sign off your posts ciaran. we know its you because it fucking says it underneath your mutterings. thats the sort of self importance shit id expect from a planner, not you. sort it out old man. ive got your back.

Comment by andy@cynic

q) “andy. what made you decide to start cynic with rob and auntie”

a) “i was a fucking idiot”.

Comment by andy@cynic

So were we.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

as if anyone bothers to ask..

Comment by lauren

Did he have any thoughts on the absence strong Chinese brands in China or even less so in terms of possibilities for international expansion? I’m not saying he’s got ESP and answered this but, just in case he answered the ‘China question’.

Incidentally I answered this over at a research blog that the answer wasn’t to do research for holding company agencies in China. It’s all one big WPP back scratching exercise.

Comment by Charles Frith

He did – a few anyway – but as I pointed out, the issue is less about Chinese brands not being able to do it, but either [1] they have the financial muscle power to make things happen whenever and however they want and/or [2] there’s enough people in this country to make sure they continue to be very wealthy indeed without the need to have to mingle with those weird Western folk.

As for the WPP’s of this World – I’ve long said i believe they tend to spread the belief that China isn’t a sophisticated enough market so as to [1] be able to charge top dollar to their international clients for generally basic stuff and [2] keep charging top dollar to local brands for ‘advice’ on how to eventually break the international market.

The thing is, we will see brands coming from here – we already have in a small way – however while all the ad and branding folk will say what they do is old fashioned, I’d argue they’ll be engaging it with such scale, it’ll be the new blueprint for how things will be from here on in. We’ll see … but it’s great news for the boutique networks, and potentially creative jail for the big multinationals.

Comment by Rob

Who’s Dan Wieden?

Comment by Billy Whizz

Don’t worry about him Billy, you’ll never meet him.

Comment by DH

Well I met him, and that’s even more fucked up than Billy.

Comment by Rob

Just say it , go on, just say it, Andy, Andy, Andy.
See what I mean?
Suas do guna, Una, or in your case andy.
Ciaran Gerard Majella Marian McCabe
Hey, it wasn’t my fucking fault I was confirmed in the Marian Year

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

fascinating post, great to hear a personal account after reading about w+k’s history on Creativity last week. would love to meet him someday.

Comment by nik


Comment by Marcus


Comment by Rob

I Palindrome I

Comment by Marcus


Comment by Rob

im surprised wieden didnt write a comment on here campbell. telling you to stop using his fucking name in public and in association with you. hes either a fucking saint, a fucking idiot or calling his lawyer.

Comment by andy@cynic

What I like about him is that he has managed (by all accounts) to a: make money b: do great creative c: stay independent AND d: be a nice guy. Not many can do all 4.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I always knew that anger was a good creative force no matter what other people said. Look, Mr. Wieden made a whole agency out of it!

Comment by deea

They also made the best ad of the last decade with that idea.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

screwed up my name too, that’s how excited I was

Comment by andrea


Comment by Rob Mortimer

I would also love to meet him one day. not because of his ad credentials, or even because of his beard, but because he is systematically employing every one of my bloggy/tweety friends and i’d like to congratulate him. and then maybe commiserate with him in our common poor taste 😉

Comment by lauren

maybe hes a one man fucking charity aiming to rid the streets of all the fuckers we have issues with. ie planners. give that man a fucking hand.

Comment by andy@cynic

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