David Harnish, longtime manager of Walgreens’ Meetings and Media Department, has passed.
It is devastating for his wife Nancy, brother Paul, and his Walgreens co-workers of his expansive career at Wilmot Rd.
My fellow employees at Brien Lee Creative Solutions / VideoStory know how devastating this is for creative types throughout the Chicago and Milwaukee markets.
I last saw David at his retirement party in 2016. It was an amazing gathering of his fellow employees and bosses, closest suppliers, and by videotape, a procession of current and prior Walgreens CEOs.
I first met David when he and his then department head came up to Milwaukee when I was working at Visuals Plus. I had hosted a show and tell in Chicago of the then magic video box, the TVL. The TVL Director, as it was called, was a precursor to today’s big-time video graphics boards. It allowed for limited computer video editing, special effects, smooth speaker support, and timed audio-visuals shows comprised of images and a soundtrack, much like the enhanced slide shows that had preceded it.
The owner of Visuals Plus was attracted to the boss, naturally, but I figured out who the power player really was– David. He knew about technology; he seemed to understand meetings. After the boss duo had grabbed an elevator, I said to David, “I know who’s really running the show.” He smiled.
Over the course of the next few months, we hit it off, and what started as a new way to create slides became an opportunity to create a couple of “modules” for their upcoming managers meeting. Here’s the thing– David didn’t tell anyone he had contracted for this. Up until that time, he had used “rental modules” produced in multimedia widescreen slides to start and end his meetings. No one, not even the President of the company, was aware of what he was doing.
The two three-screen videos we produced were an opening Americana piece, showing how Walgreens was a coast-to-coast part of American lives, and an original rock song which featured a wide range of Walgreens people mouthing the words to the song, some in humorous situations.
They had a major impact. For one thing, they codified Walgreens’ corporate image. For another, they made the audience feel good about themselves and their role in the company. And, everyone at Walgreens now knew what David was capable of doing.
That started a nearly 25 year partnership that bi-annually answered the question, “How do we top that?”
Every time a meeting was announced we met at the Greek Restaurant in Gurnee, Illinois to come up with a creative direction, usually based on a theme (for instance, “The Magic of Balance”) that the execs had dreamed up.
And everytime, there was technological and creative growth.
The other part of David’s impact on me personally came after Visuals Plus closed its doors suddenly in 1994. When 1995 arrived, I was working for TVL as a Marketing Director. It was a home office job, and by this time others at Visuals Plus had started their own companies. But I felt the rug had been pulled out from under me, and didn’t take any creative job offers that had come my way. In fact, I convinced TVL to rent an inexpensive office in Milwaukee so I could do Demos.
Then I got a call from David. “I have a meeting coming up.” We jointly decided it would be advantageous to bring the gang together once again. I started a new business, which David named “Brien Lee Creative Solutions” and we picked up where we left off, now fully into video meetings. Our best work was yet to come, including a mixed media stage show celebrating Walgreens’ 100th Anniversary. (I love anniversary shows).
David was always the guy Walgreens came to for communications advances. We partnered on many of these, like interactive DVD’s, starting up the in-house video network, e-learning systems, video compression for the network, non-linear video editing and more.
I was especially proud when David’s boss, Jim Schultz, invited my small company to attend David’s 25th anniversary party at Walgreens. It had incredible meaning for my staff and I.
In 2011, David was asked to do a timelapse video of the buildout of a new Duane Reade store at the Trump Building near Wall Street in New York. This was so successful, it lead to two more “time lapse stories” for store new stores in San Francisco and the “Net Zero Energy” store in Evanston, Illinois.
This brought us to 2014.
Those who knew him know what a talented, sweet guy he was. I know he worried about everything, partially because of his drive to be more creative, a better boss, a better husband and friend, and the best “Keeper of the Flame” Walgreens will ever see. The only words I could think of when I learned of his passing was “HE WAS A GIANT.” My condolences to Nancy, Paul, and all his friends and cohorts-- we all are better for have knowing David.
I am attaching below two things: David’s 50th Birthday video, and a write-up I did in 2007 recalling most of the work we had done together until that point. Both bring back memories of David driving through empty ballrooms in his golf-cart. You'll find both below.
Milestone David Harnish Productions
Since 1992, David Harnish has been the “keeper of the flame” at Walgreens, by virtue of his understanding and communication of “The Walgreen Way”. For more than 15 years, David has created communications projects that have presented the Walgreen Corporate Culture through the context of history, the extrapolation of current initiatives, and the visualization of future successes.
Here is a rundown of major productions that catalyzed Walgreens culture and motivated the thousands of Walgreens employees in stores, Headquarters, and in newer divisions and acquisitions. These are a handful of the communications efforts that mirrored Walgreens successes and, in some ways, created pathways for growth through motivation and visualization.
The Nature of Trust
The first major new production for a meeting. Designed to extrapolate Walgreens first major image campaign, and the fact that Walgreens was a national company with a national reputation. Introduced three screen video.
“Who Do You Trust?”
The same meetings closed with this humorous rock video, the first to introduce two key elements: a self-effacing sense of humor, and the energy of original pop music created specifically for the event.
“Winning the Consumer”
A look at Walgreens cultural history, from its early days, to the malted milk, to the invention of self-service, and finally to the roll out of the modern Walgreens expansion. 3-D animation, original score, and the first seamless panoramic wide screen presentation in the country.
“Every Move Counts”
Taking the “rock video” concept further, this wide screen presentation looked at a single day in the life of a Walgreens manager, and all the quirky and humorous things that can happen when interacting with customers. Following the video a live “talk show: was performed on stage, and tge rousing theme song recreated by a live band. The reaction was so good that Walgreens had to distribute music cassettes of the music to all of the stores.
“The National Anthem”
As a result of a direct request from Walgreen’s President the 1997 managers meeting-- the first uniting all managers in one room-- opened with a visual tribute to the country and a live singing of the national anthem during that presentation.
“Seven Service Basics”
Considered to be a breakout training video, this “singing” of the newly introduced “Seven Service Basics” show store clerks and managers reacting to challenging situations and finding the right response in the form of one of the “Seven Service Basics.” This video is still in service today and has been translated into spanish.
"The Importance of Trust"
An examination of trust in the workplace, ie preventing shrink, and the importance of self-policing for the protection of everyone.
"WHI: The Power of One"
For the first sales meeting of what was then known as Walgreens Health Initiatives, video cameras covered all aspects of the meeting, with a special emphasis of a team building exercise in Chicago’s inner city. To an original theme song, the video was cut together on-site using computer editing (a very early use of this technique) and the result was a powerful statement of unity and strength for this newly formed group.
“Shadow of a Man”
The definitive history of Walgreens, created for the company’s 100th Anniversary. Told in the words of Mrs. Walgreen, this documentary style video showed how 100 years of Walgreens success could be traced to the tenets Charles R. Walgreen adopted when he started his first store.
“As Far As You Want to Go”
This DVD was created to recruit pharmacists across the country by showing the benefits of being a Walgreens pharmacist. Shot and developed in documentary style, we see and hear various pharmacists of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities tell their success stories. An industry leading vehicle.
“100 Years in 100 Seconds”
A lightning quick history of how Walgreens has been a part of the culture of America for 100 years.
A marketing campaign complete with video and poster that was designed to train Walgreens store employees to “Upsell”. Featuring humor, role-playing, original music and training elements.
WHS Sales DVD
The first use of an integrated interactive DVD for sales, this DVD featured segments on product, service, marketing, staffing, and corporate image-- as well as speaker support-- to help an expanding sales force “bring WHS to new customers”, instead of flying the customers to WHS.
“I am the Face of Walgreens”
Follow four diverse managers throughout their daily routine and their lives, learning what makes them tick, how they embody “The Walgreen Way”, and how they are, indeed, “The Face of Walgreens”.
“Make Some Noise”
The ultimate Walgreens Rock video, for the national managers meeting. A manager sings an original r&b song about other managers making some noise (showing their pride.) He acts as Pied Piper, singing, dancing, even drumming throughout stores and Walgreens corporate. At the peak of the song, he blasts into the auditorium of 6000 Walgreens Managers, and leads them in a spirited “shout” out, leading to cheers and a standing ovation.
“Winning as One”
Six major pop hits are resung in the exact style of the originals to lyrics written specifically for the theme of this WHS meeting. Candid pictures from all WHS divisions across the country are shown.
For the closing of the meeting, an “instant” candids video incorporates attendees singing some of the lyrics as scenes from the meeting are shown.
“This is MY Walgreens”
Theme developed by David Harnish
“This is MY Walgreens”
High-definition wide screen opener featuring store scenes, corporate scenes, customer scenes, and the impassioned repetition of “This is MY Walgreens” mantra throughout. Successful rollout of unifying theme for use at the meeting and later. Original music and lyrics.
How best to critique a company’s own customer service? At the request of the chairman, this video was created to role-play “bad”customer service, in the form of a Lemonade stand staffed by children. Ironic and humorous.