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“David Kennedy is my hero” – a tribute by Susan Hoffman

The former D&AD President’s Award winner and Wieden + Kennedy Chair remembers Kennedy’s humanity

Photo credit: Kurt Hettle

Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) co-founder David Kennedy passed away on October 10, 2021, leaving behind an unrivaled legacy that includes some of advertising’s most memorable campaigns, such as "Just Do It" for Nike. But since his death, an outpouring of memories shared on social media, indicates his legacy lies beyond the campaigns, in the culture of creativity he fostered in his agency and within the people he worked with. 

Here, Wieden + Kennedy Chair and 2018 D&AD President’s Award winner Susan Hoffman shares a heartfelt tribute.

David Kennedy is my hero.

Along with Dan Wieden, he built one of the best creative agencies in the world, with a backbone of encouragement to enable us to understand the power of our own voices. 

David didn’t do advertising. He did humanity. Always watching, inspiring and challenging us. 

Often we say we don't like advertising, but it was Kennedy's humanity and truth that is our advertising.

Image courtesy of W+K

To quote Jim Riswold: “Think we’re talking about advertising? We’re not. We’re talking about priceless and eternal life lessons—humility, kindness, discovery, listening, growing, failing, getting up again. That’s Kennedy.”

He was a craftsman and would tinker and craft ads down to the word spacing. If you get a chance to see his handwriting it looks like he used a ruler. We made a font and of course it's called Kennedy.

“David didn’t do advertising. He did humanity.”

Kennedy made sure there wasn't an agency hierarchy and no one has a title on their business cards. I remember once when a few of us were complaining about doing the Nike ad kit and David looked at us and said "If you're not willing to scrub the floors this is the wrong place for you”.

And with the last name Kennedy you’d assume he was Irish. He is by blood but with a huge Native American heart. He put all his David into the American Indian College Fund (AICF) because he wanted to make a difference and give back to Native Americans their voice that had been taken away. And to remind us that Native Americans deserve what’s theirs. His final campaign for AICF ran in the New York Times the day after he passed.

This Is Indian Country, W+K

Kennedy is on his next journey and has passed us his baton. Use it well.

Here’s a great reminder from Tinker Hatfield: “Here’s the thing. His passing is also about you, me, all of us, who were influenced by him. Our jobs are not done. “So, we remember him, toast his brilliance and then get after it.”

Thank you Kennedy for not only what you did for me, but for all the many people around the globe who are more inspired and better because of you.

Kennedy+Wieden was an experiment and it worked.

Written by Susan Hoffman

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