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CREATIVE 101: ADWEEK CHRONICLES NIKE/W&K PARTNERSHIP
Published June 24, 1998
Since Nike signed S.F.-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as a "project shop" in March '97, long-time Nike agency Wieden & Kennedy "has watched its once-exclusive relationship with its signature client -- a relationship many industry members regarded as an ideal -- loosen and fray," according to Voight & Parpis of ADWEEK, who examine Nike's relationship with both agencies in an extensive must- read. Dan Wieden, whose agency has worked with Nike since '82, called Goodby's involvement "a wake-up call for our agency," and added that his agency's relationship with Nike "is more like family than it is business." However, insiders "use words like 'anxious' and 'paranoid' to describe the mood at Wieden's offices," and account and creative employees "are said to be deeply worried." Wieden recently laid off 37 workers in Portland, after Nike's recent "sales drop-off" caused billings cuts (ADWEEK, 6/22). LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBY? In March '97, Goodby was given four "noncore assignments: women's sports, performance apparel, ACG outdoor products and retail." Goodby's winning pitch suggested a "more humble, caring tone for the brand." And, while Nike and both agencies at the time downplayed Goodby's account as "Wieden's leftovers," sources claim that "in reality the loss of women's sports stung Wieden." Currently, "including projected cuts," a tally of current Nike U.S. billings gives Goodby about $70-80M, while Wieden "has taken a major hit," with its domestic billings down from $210M to the $100-120M range (ADWEEK, 6/22 issue). CORPORATE MIDLIFE CRISIS? Voight & Parpis write that Nike Chair Phil Knight "faces a quandary" as the company prepares its advertising strategy: "Should Nike reinforce its brand essence as the sexy, brazen young rebel? ... Or, plagued with changing consumer values and stinging criticism over its labor practices, should the company embrace a new role as a conscientious corporate citizen, as Goodby tends to advocate?" For now, Nike's answer "is unclear, as both agencies are painfully aware" (ADWEEK, 6/22 issue). THE AGENCY'S FUTURE: Voight & Parpis report that Goodby "is not exactly enjoying smooth sailing" with its Nike work, as creative turnover on the account "has been high." As for Wieden & Kennedy, "the old days are gone." Even Wieden has said, "Nike is not our future. [Top client] Microsoft is our future." Although people close to the account "remain convinced that as long as Knight is part of Nike," Wieden will stay in the picture, Voight & Parpis conclude, "there comes a time when everyone has to hang up their cleats and leave the field for the last time. Then it's time to move on to something new" (ADWEEK, 6/22 issue).