David Kennedy

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David Kennedy

David Kennedy

Photo credit: 
Weiden+Kennedy

David Kennedy

Date of Birth

Date of Birth: May 31, 1939
Date of Passing: October 12, 2021
Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas
Obituary: Ad Week

David Kennedy was an American advertising executive who co-founded Wieden+Kennedy (W+K).

Kennedy was born May 31, 1939 in Kansas, into the third generation of wildcat drillers, and grew up in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Colorado, and every other state along the Eastern front range of the Rockies. He spent his childhood fishing trout streams and rivers—The Madison, The Firehole, The Bighorn, The Little Bighorn, The Silver and The Snake, and countless others.

David Kennedy was an American advertising executive who co-founded Wieden+Kennedy (W+K).

Kennedy was born May 31, 1939 in Kansas, into the third generation of wildcat drillers, and grew up in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Colorado, and every other state along the Eastern front range of the Rockies. He spent his childhood fishing trout streams and rivers—The Madison, The Firehole, The Bighorn, The Little Bighorn, The Silver and The Snake, and countless others.

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. Up until his death he continued to create beautiful welded sculptures and prints in his home studio on his farm in Estacada, Oregon.

He furthered his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Artists Guild, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, and the United States Marine Corps.

David married his wife Kathleen in 1963, and went on to have five children while living in Chicago, where David began his advertising career as a designer/art director, testing his skills at agencies that were every bit as world-class as the rivers he fished in his youth, including Young & Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Needham and Benton & Bowles.

In 1979, David saw the opportunity to move his family back to the West, back to the mountains he loved so much and missed so dearly. He left Chicago to join the Portland, Oregon office of McCann-Erickson. Three years later, in a move that had friends and family shaking their heads, he teamed up with a young writer named Dan Wieden and struck out on their own, appropriately, on April Fool's day 1982, to form what would become one of the world's most celebrated advertising agencies in the world, Wieden+Kennedy.

Under Kennedy and Wieden, the agency created some of the most iconic advertising campaigns in history for Honda, Nike and Travel Oregon (previously the Oregon Tourism Division), among other clients. Notable work under Kennedy and Wieden's creative direction included an advert for Honda scooters famously featuring music and an appearance by Lou Reed. The documentary-style ad featuring city life used a shaky-camera technique that would soon be followed by many others in the industry. Nike examples include Walk Stack, which was Nike's first "Just Do It" commercial, Bo Knows and the series of ads featuring Spike Lee and Michael Jordan.

In 2011, the agency created The Kennedys in David's honor, a creative incubator program to introduce and grow new talent, intentionally looking for creative talent outside of traditional advertising pipelines. It runs as W+K's own agency within the agency, where talent work on real assignments with real clients and deadlines. Today the program has expanded to be a global program at W+K.

Over the years and even after his retirement in 1995, David also led countless, annual campaigns and initiatives for one of the agency's longest running accounts, the American Indian College Fund, including the very latest that launched into the world the day after his death. He also served on the College Fund's Board of Trustees. He also collaborated for many years with Native American artists and the Pendleton Woolen Mills Company to produce a line of limited edition blankets for the College Fund, based on traditional indigenous designs and legends.

David was honored with many prestigious awards over the years. He was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, One Club Hall of Fame, AAF Hall of Fame. His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Dan Wieden once said, "David Kennedy's heart and soul and neural pathways are etched deep inside Wieden+Kennedy. It's who we are, it's what we do and it's why we do it."

Kennedy, beloved father, husband, friend, family, passed away October 10th, 2021.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Kathleen, and children Cathlin, Brendan, Erinn and Siobhan, and predeceased by his son Ian.

The family has asked that gifts be made to the American Indian College Fund.

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