Exporting Portland’s Quirky, One Of W+K’s Greatest Accomplishments

Richard Read of The Oregonian visited London and Amsterdam in pursuit of a story about Wieden+Kennedy’s expanding global network.
He points out that W+K had some trouble recently in Amsterdam, their oldest overseas outpost. But it was nothing Chief Operating Officer, Dave Luhr, couldn’t handle, although Luhr did have to move to The Netherlands for several months.
Read also looks at the London office’s attempt to land Nokia, a global account thought to be worth as much as $300 million. Apparently, Dan Wieden took a look at the concepts in the brainstorming room and freaked, just days before the pitch, because he didn’t see a winning idea.
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It turns out there was a winning idea and W+K/London landed the Nokia business.
Read explains the agency’s style and their key point of difference:

The firm’s creatives say conventional ad companies, which they disdain as mere businesses, stick to a linear approach. In the W+K view, planners in such companies run surveys, crank numbers and produce polished reports listing business objectives, target markets and client budgets. They slip briefs under the creatives’ door, behind which advertising alchemy then unfolds.
Wieden+Kennedy, true to its organic Portland roots, prides itself on a more chaotic and democratic “swarm” approach. Planners, creatives and others collaborate to divine and convey what they call a brand’s “voice.” If The Wall goes “off-brief,” so be it.
Participants consider themselves above merely churning out commercials. Team members try to understand the people and philosophy behind a company, they say, translating them into messages that build a relationship between a brand and its customers.
“You can clever your way out of a problem,” says Kim Papworth, executive creative director with Tony Davidson in London. “But you haven’t worked out the problem.”

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.