This is a great story from Dan Wieden at Wieden Kennedy, the very honored Portland ad firm. … He’d come up with seven videos for the new Nike ad campaign. … He knew these different videos which featured different sports needed a shared slogan. But he just couldn’t think of the slogan. … At some point during the day, somebody must’ve mentioned Norman Mailer to him. And so Norman Mailer was in the back of his head somewhere.
“It’s near midnight. His deadline’s approaching. He’s really, really frustrated at this point because he can’t come up with this damn slogan. And then suddenly he thinks of Norman Mailer. He remembers Norman Mailer wrote this book called The Executioner’s Song about Gary Gilmore. And he remembers Gary Gilmore’s last words right before he’s executed by a firing squad in Utah. His last words were, ‘Let’s do it.’
“And Dan Wieden thinks to himself, Geez, that’s pretty brave. That’s a pretty brave sentiment to have right before you die — to just get it over with. But he realizes ‘Let’s Do It’ isn’t quite right, so he tweaks one word. And there you get ‘Just Do It.’ … But that’s a perfect example of how, in a sense, that’s an old idea. It was a line in a Norman Mailer book, and he tweaked it ever so slightly. He substituted one word and came up with one of the most influential advertising slogans of the second half of the 20th century.”