JT Taylor
2 min readNov 17, 2021


“Just do it.”

I know. You’re thinking of Nike’s extraordinary and vast, decades-long campaign. With just my 5 years of working in marketing, this campaign is used so often as the pinnacle of advertising and marketing success. And nobody is wrong. It’s versatile.

Change the intonation just a smidge and you have new meaning. And so it did when Dan Weidan of Weidan+Kennedy co-opted it in the first place.

They were Gary Gilmore’s last words as they sat him down for his execution in 1976, the first execution following a decade of holding back the death penalty. His case being the first to kick the entire thing back into place couldn’t have been lost on Gilmore. It wasn’t even lost on SNL and their skit “Killing Gary Gilmore for Christmas” kinda communicates the “is this really happening” moment of huge media meeting with execution. Right there in the serial killer golden age.

It wasn’t lost on anyone, but in those last moments Gilmore sounds like he was exhausted and over the wait. He knew the firing squad was a horrible way to die, even though he chose it, so he wanted to get it over with, rip the bandage off, so he said “just do it.”

The ultimate in “fuck it” task initiation energy.

And that’s where simple intonation change and all of that inspiration to get shit done feels retrospectively gooey. Meaning I don’t have a conclusion because I can’t decide for anyone if the iteration of this phrase on everything bothers them. Divorced from its origin, it doesn’t say anything about dying, in fact Nike have managed to carve it out as the ultimate in *living*.

But you know, if I was the one who took the idea from a serial killer on his execution day, I likely would keep that secret to myself.

Unless I really wanted to fuck with you decades after you purchased an entire wardrobe of the clothes and spoken about the phrase in a million meetings, tethered aspects of yourself to it.

And then I’d get the message to somebody like Billy Jensen so he could just open that box all the way.



JT Taylor

JT Taylor has a doctorate in early modern English and early American literature, focusing on historiography and critical theory. But wants to talk about more.