Anyone who has ever walked into a class to be met by one of the legends of their industry raise your hand. Last week we were greeted by the smiling face of Dan Wieden, of Wieden + Kennedy. This is the guy whose agency pretty much built Nike. All of that great Nike work that has been done over the years has come across this mans desk on its way to your eyeballs. We had a really informal question and answer session with him, and along the way the story of how the legendary "Just Do It" tagline came about was revealed.
Apparently it was nearing time to present some new work to the client, and they still didn't have an endline. It was then that two incredibly different people impacted advertising history without even knowing it.
There was a man executed by firing squad in Utah in 1977 by the name of Gary Gilmore. Gilmore murdered two people, and then impacted advertising history when asked if he had any last words. He responded with "let's do it." So one of the most recognized taglines ever could have been "let's do it."
Luckily for Nike, Nancy Reagan was telling kids to "just say no." The first lady's message was merged with the last words of a double-murderer and then Nike made a lot of money and high school football teams were motivated and fraternity event t-shirts were made.
Thank you Gary Gilmore.