How Wieden & Kennedy's John 'JP' Petty Found His Identity At An HBCU — 'It Was Very Necessary'
Photo Credit: Wieden + Kennedy

How Wieden & Kennedy's John 'JP' Petty Found His Identity At An HBCU — 'It Was Very Necessary'

When John “JP” Petty was promoted to an executive level at Wieden & Kennedy, he couldn’t help but shout out his Historically Black College and University (HBCU) alma mater, Lincoln University. According to Petty, the education he got from the acclaimed HBCU was indeed second to none — but in actuality, he got so much more, too.

“Without Lincoln, I wouldn’t have gotten to know myself,” he told AfroTech. “That’s where I came to my full realization of self, as a Black man — and how it helped me find my place in this world. It was there that I realized I didn’t have to be an athlete, or a rapper, to be a success in this world. I could do it on my own terms, in my own way — so, yes, I fully recommend that anyone who can, should absolutely attend an HBCU. It was very necessary for me, and it can be very necessary for you, too.”

Until now, Petty has served as head of social for W+K’s New York office, where he has been integral in building a robust social practice, as well as helping to launch WKNY’s Bodega—a social-first, internal creative group that works cultural moments into brand storytelling (versus trying to push brand storytelling onto culture).

The HBCU alum is now taking his talents to the Portland office, where he will serve as the executive creative director.

He will join Ana and Hermeti Balarin, executive creative directors, and Managing Director Jess Monsey in leading W+K’s largest office as the independent network approaches its 40th anniversary.

Petty is largely responsible for transforming the creative output for a new media landscape while shaping trends for the type of work that guides the next generation of advertisers — for instance the social media push behind the Travis Scott and Saweetie McDonald’s meals.

He has revolutionized the way people, especially the youth, interact with media and Hip-Hop culture, such as teaching a media course for the Roc Nation School of Music, Sports, and Entertainment. JP connects with people in the community,  whether it involves speaking on panels for Adweek and The Creative Collective NYC or leading initiatives to help elevate brands and rising artists, such as contributing to the launch of UnitedMasters.

“For me, though, this also is all about bringing young talent, particularly from Philly and other underserved areas, into careers that they would have never thought they could pursue,” he said. “I’m really hoping that as they look, and see, someone like me in my position, they realize that they can do what I do, too. I’m hoping more than anything that I have an impact that goes above and beyond the entertainment industry.”

And the HBCU alum hopes that the next phase of his journey also brings him to new and unprecedented heights.

“The work that has come out of our Portland office has been game-changing, not just among our network, but in our industry and in culture,” he said. “I believe what I represent in this puzzle is an opportunity to open the door for different types of creativity. Over the past few years, we’ve transformed our work by understanding that creativity comes in a lot of different forms, and from every corner of the building. Our future not only allows for it but demands it in a way that will define the next era of Wieden+Kennedy. As I join the team in Portland, I’m looking forward to having a lasting effect on the city itself, diversifying the agency’s inputs to bolster and diversify its output, and ultimately creating some of the dopest work we’ll do in our lifetime.”

Editorial note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.