Remembering David Kennedy

David Kennedy, co-founder of Wieden + Kennedy, passed away this week, leading to an outpouring of tributes from the advertising industry. Here, Alvaro Sotomayer, founder of the Kennedys, W+K’s internship programme, remembers him

Back in 2010 I flew from Amsterdam to Portland to ask David Kennedy’s permission to start a school in his name. The prospect of asking the most humble man in our business to share his name again to a creative accelerator programme for those that might not have a direct shot at the front door of our business, filled him with giggles and humility. In all honesty, it was all a big excuse to enjoy his company and share his spirit with as many of us as we could.

You see, this merry-go-round business of ours persists, we must look forwards at all times. Yet here was this gem of a character, that thrived in looking totally in the opposite direction, a legend that showed us the value of walking patiently, helping and caring for those underrepresented, and the joy of enjoying the tools we already have vs the constant need of new toys.

I always admired his under-the-radar approach, his relentless wisdom and humanity he brought to the place. He was an activist that made people feel seen, heard, alive. He loved action more than words and taught me that every special hot sauce needs some sweetness too.

He loved to give gifts, in the form of candy, jokes, stories, calls and good old paper and pen. He had a great sense to feel people’s emotions, as if he had a soul scanner that could tell him who was feeling a bit nervous or preoccupied, and he made it his mission for you to smile. He taught us to be present in the life of those away from the spotlight, and to invest our time in finding what makes them happy, and present them with just that, joy.

I always admired his under-the-radar approach, his relentless wisdom and humanity he brought to the place

We are so going to miss having him around every day, the man that “retired in 1993, but never found the exit door”. He had that spirit of working because you love it, not because you have to.

He taught us to live by love, because you are into the feeling of the blades of your scissors pressing forward … that feeling of work being less of a job and more like art class … the warmth of the beam of a photocopier, the smell of glue and stickiness in your fingers, the value in order and kerning. The joy of hiring your heroes. That’s the legacy that David left in us and will continue to live through the school we built under his name.

Now 11 years later, such school, The Kennedys, continues to be an open door to the unrepresented talent around the world and we work passionately to give presents to those that wish to tell us their dreams. We jingle our keys hanging from our trousers to sparkle a little magic wherever we go – just like David did every day.

Alvaro Sotomayer is a creative director at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam and founder of The Kennedys, which is used to discover new talent across the W+K network;