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Karl Lieberman '99

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Advertising executive's creative campaigns impact our culture

Karl Lieberman

​Karl Lieberman

If you’ve ever wondered who might be the most interesting man in the world, Karl Lieberman can tell you. In fact, he created him.

The concept was the centerpiece of a 2006 advertising campaign for Dos Equis beer that ran for a decade, helped triple the brand’s business and earned Lieberman and his co-creator, fellow UD alumnus Brandon Henderson ’99, awards and widespread recognition. “The Most Interesting Man in the World” is just one of many creative projects for a wide variety of businesses that have won Lieberman acclaim in the world of advertising.

Now executive creative director, chief creative officer and partner at the Wieden + Kennedy (W+K) agency, Lieberman, Class of 1999, has received a 2020 Alumni Achievement Award from UD’s College of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his professional accomplishments and public service.

“Karl has won every award possible for creative in his field,” said William Deering, assistant professor of art and design in UD’s visual communications program, who nominated Lieberman for the alumni award. “His leadership with his company and directing a creative staff of 100 is remarkable.”

He noted that Lieberman’s work over the years has had an impact on popular culture and has been referenced in such major media outlets as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, among many others.

Some of Lieberman’s most memorable work includes the 2010 Procter & Gamble “Thank You, Mom” Olympics campaign that won an Emmy in 2012 and the Kentucky Fried Chicken ads that brought back “The Colonel,” a campaign that helped spark a turnaround for the brand leading to 13 consecutive quarters of business growth.

Since graduating from UD, Lieberman has worked as an art director and a copywriter. He became executive creative director of W+K in 2016, and in January 2021 was also named chief creative officer for the agency’s offices in New York, Portland, Amsterdam, Delhi, London, São Paolo, Shanghai and Tokyo. With some 1,400 employees, W+K is the largest independent ad agency in the world and is consistently rated among the best.

Its brands include Bud Light, Nike, Fisher-Price and Coca-Cola. Lieberman has brought in such brands as HBO, Duracell, Spotify, Lyft, The Atlantic, Vitaminwater and Fox Sports.

“As a company, we try to be rooted in the truth—real human emotions, real thoughts,” Lieberman said. “The truth doesn’t necessarily have to be this super insightful thing. It’s reflected in how consumers see the products in their normal lives.”

When Lieberman came to UD as a freshman, he wasn’t even aware of advertising as a possible career path, but he said he was inspired and motivated by faculty in the visual communications program, particularly Deering, Martha Carothers and Ray Nichols. They held their students to high standards and encouraged them to make use of available opportunities, he said, noting that he did an internship in London at Deering’s suggestion. Students took field trips to New York ad agencies and were able to reach out to alumni for advice.

“The UD alumni network is incredible,” Lieberman said. “I try to really pay that back.”

Today, he is doing just that, continuing to host visiting classes at W+K and offering student internships. In April, he joined other advertising professionals in speaking via Zoom to one of Deering’s classes, something he does regularly. He serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council and in 2020 established the Karl Lieberman Scholarship award for advertising in visual communication.

Most recently, a new Wieden + Kennedy Scholarship will support the academic and professional goals of underrepresented Delawareans, opening doors and fostering diversity in the industry.

The scholarship will award $60,000 in tuition over four years and provide three summer internships and the option to join W+K full time after graduation.

“It’s a huge priority for me personally, and for all of us at Wieden, to make sure underrepresented talent has equal access to a career in the creative industry,” Lieberman said.

Article by Ann Manser and Megan Maccherone

Published June 1, 2021

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Advertising executive Karl Lieberman has received a 2020 College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award, recognizing his professional accomplishments and service.
5/19/2021
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