Goafest 2009: Dan Wieden speaks for passionate and intimate bonds

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, Goa | In Advertising | April 06, 2009
Wieden talks about building closer and stronger bonds, Wieden + Kennedy, and the technological boon

He was the only speaker at the Goafest 2009 who was greeted with applauses and hoots even before he got on to the stage to begin his presentation. Dan Wieden, co-founder, Wieden + Kennedy (W+K), was able to make it at the last minute to the Indian shores to attend the Indian ad fraternity's biggest gathering.

Labelling the current phase as one of technological revolution and economical evolution, Wieden stressed on the need to balance technology with emotional connections and closer bonds between all the entities involved in the whole process of advertising.

"We have created an artificially abstract world to live in. Life is like a thought cage," said Wieden, commencing his presentation. He said that the technological issue, though fascinating, will take away what we cherish the most from us.

& #BANNER1 & #With 180 million Facebook users, more than 225 million websites and thousands popping up every day, the question to ponder is whether we have used technology to our advantage to build intimacy or we have traded intimacy for something less realistic -given the situation - something that will not take us too far?

Like many others, Wieden realises that the world has changed. Digital is not strange and does not surprise anyone anymore. A lot of the real influential people are a party to the digital rising. "The new generation has been insistent enough for us to look at digital and a lot more things as new opportunities," he muses.

He spells out that the young generation has understood how to earn the money - it's first about creating a name and a following for oneself. The money will automatically follow! That's how such people end up building tight, passionate and intimate communities who remain loyal.

Citing the example of Kaws, who began as a street artist putting up figures on the OOH ads, Wieden talked about how the young man got people to become a fan of his figures on cartoon characters. He even got support from brands to get his figures imprinted on their products. Kaws could do it because he discovered the importance of building intimate relationships with people around him - for him to be well-known.

On building intimate groups, he also brought out the example of W+K Twelve - a laboratory where 12 students find different ways to solve creative problems.

Wieden's intention was clear. "I did not pair them in art-copy partner groups in the first year - they had to work as a single group. Also, even if a piece of work is awarded, it is awarded to the group of W+K Twelve - and not to any particular individual."

Later on, when Wieden divided the 12 students in two groups, the outcome was that one of the groups brought on the Levi's business, while the other successfully marketed a film, Coraline in association with Nike.

"The purpose was to build passionate groups to create and sustain your brand," believes Wieden.

Discussing the logistics, he said that the film, Coraline, was marketed through trailers, online banners, original content, OOH, blogs and other participatory tactics. The result? Before the movie, Coraline, got released, the website had obtained 8,54,000 unique visitors. After the release, the film's website got another 1.7 million unique visitors.

The movie was expected to make US$ 9 million. It grossed about US$ 16.8 million and was the second highest grosser.

An advice to marketers from Wieden - no matter the recession, a marketer should not prefer price sensitive ads which affect the quality of the work that is churned out.

As a member of the fraternity, he thinks that "they are rotten businessmen". They can work their way through, but they are not great at financials.

He strongly believes that the advertising discipline is not about money and business - it's about creating a place for people in a compound way. It's got to do with art and most importantly, building culture.

It's about creating a bond - between clients and agencies, clients and consumers, agencies and consumers, and within agencies as well. "The work is the reflection of the culture."

"Can we create communities where people can be their own selves - both in terms of individuality as well as having intimate relationships?" he questions.

W+K has underlined values that are identical across the offices of the agency. People come to the agency to do the best work of their lives, tells Wieden.

On being queried upon the Nike business and the brand's communication that the agency has been working on for so many years, Wieden, the man behind Nike's tagline, 'Just Do It', speaks about his early days on how it started out. "Phil (from Nike) refused to run an ad more than once. He's like a coach - if you have anything to serve, you do so, or you might as well leave." That's what kept the ball rolling for the agency.

On entering India late, he reasons that it was on the agency's top priority list to be present in the top 10 markets of the world - India just wasn't tapped.

David Kennedy is a retired member of the agency. On a query about him from someone in the audience, Wieden commented that he didn't know how to put it better than revealing that he made up Kennedy!