This year, that vision moved another step closer to reality. After finding itself on the short end of the stick with the Diet Coke consolidation with Interpublic Group of Cos. and WPP in 2001, Wieden & Kennedy late in 2005 picked up the U.S. and global Coke branding accounts. After patient courting, it won a spot on the P&G roster with the win of Eukanuba pet food out of its Amsterdam, Tokyo and Portland, Ore., offices, and Ivory out of its Portland office. It's also counting new global assignments with the win of the Electronic Arts account in offices in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Shanghai.
But in perhaps the sweetest victory of all, after a shoot-out against eight-year incumbent JWT, Wieden & Kennedy's fledgling Shanghai office was awarded the Nike business for China. Global billings were $1.14 billion, up 11.2% from the previous year. U.S. billings were up 19.8%, while non-U.S. billings were up 1.4% to $489 million. Account losses included Vodafone and Heineken from the Amsterdam office.
For these wins, and for continuing to be a creative beacon with work not just for Nike but for Honda Europe, Wieden deserves special recognition for its global performance. "Our three big wins are all accounts that are utilizing our global network and offer the agency a substantial long-term growth opportunity," the agency said in its end-of-the-year statement. While proud of its long-term relationship with founding client Nike, "we are equally proud that we can no longer be perceived as a single client-dominated shop."
Wieden believes its key ingredient is its independence. But it also believes that its secret sauce is the way it has built out its network, specifically by starting from scratch with its own proven talent. In fact, longtime Wieden creative John Jay, who returned to the U.S. in late 2004, is now executive creative director of the entire company and creative partner to founder Dan Wieden. In Tokyo, Mr. Jay built the shop's strongest operation in Asia/Pacific, which has grown almost 20% year over year since 2002. In addition to Nike, the office has picked up Japanese marketers Sapporo Breweries and Sharp Electronics for the Aquos TV brand.
The agency also continued its thrust into new media. Two years ago, Mr. Wieden questioned the long-term viability of its branded entertainment division. But by the end of 2005, under founder Bill Davenport, the unit had one of its most successful years ever, culminating with the launch of Ginga, a documentary about the spirit of Brazilian soccer which will be released in multiple nations and in differing lengths in cinema, the Web, and in traditional commercials. In Tokyo, its in-house record label is launching its seventh CD.
"They always invent new media and new venues they don't get credit for," says one envious competitor. "Dan Wieden is the man of the year." Whether he's the man of 2006 will depend in large part on how well the world takes to Wieden's "Welcome to the Coke side of life" campaign.
Contributing: Normandy Madden