Launch Awards Scholarship to UNT Students

Congrats to our 2019 Launch Scholarship winners at UNT 👏 We recently presented our annual $1,000 Launch scholarship awards to Madeline O’ Mary for Art Direction and Gaby Pesqueira for Graphic Design. Both students currently attend UNT College of Visual Arts + Design and were recognized for creating an outstanding body of work. Launch established this scholarship in 2007 to inspire creative excellence and make a positive impact on UNT graduates who will, in turn, positively impact our design and advertising community.

Launch wins silver in 2020 Graphis Poster Annual

We swung for the fences with our Texas Rangers Triple Play event poster campaign—and hit it big with a silver award in the 2020 Graphis Poster Annual. It’s an honor to be featured in one of the world’s premier advertising and design annuals. Check out our winning entry, blending old-world storybook design with modern-day Rangers baseball, here.

Happy 16th Launchiversary!

Launch celebrated its 16th anniversary last night by treating the entire team to dinner at Al Biernat’s. Time sure flies when you’re launching brands and building a talented team.

It’s been 16 years since Creative Directors, David Wilgus and Diane Seimetz joined forces with Account Lead, Michael Boone. Years later, these three are still having a blast with many of the same clients and crew that have been on this crazy ride with them right from the start.


Launch scores three 2019 Dallas ADDY Awards

Congrats to our Baylor Scott & White Health and Park Place Dealerships teams for taking home two silvers and a bronze at the 2019 American Advertising Awards Gala at The Bomb Factory.

Our Baylor Scott & White team was awarded a silver for the “Never Settle” TV spot and a bronze for the Changing Healthcare For The Better OOH campaign. Our Park Place Dealership team took home a silver for the annual Texas Rangers Triple Play event.

High fives to our team and our clients for creating such great work this year! 🏆

How Technology Has Changed the Creative Process (and Why It’s a Good Thing)

Technology has come a long way since the typewriter era of advertising.  It’s hard to believe that in 1990, 99% of households had no internet.  We’ve seen massive technological advancements over the past 40 years, from the Internet of Things to cell phones to blockchain, which have impacted not only our personal lives, but the way we market products as well. Things like digital video, which only got a dedicated platform with YouTube in 2005, have exploded in just a short time.  New research reveals that almost 60% of advertisers’ budgets are allocated to digital video, and nearly half of these advertisers plan on upping this spend over the next year, a shift from the dominance of cable TV ads in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Launch Principal Dave Wilgus understands this shift – indeed, he’s lived it.  Growing up, Dave had a passion for art, design, and film, which led to the start of his advertising career with an internship at TracyLocke in the late ‘70s.  While the casual jeans-and-T-shirt uniform of his early advertising days is the same, just about everything else has changed. “This is going to make me sound ancient, but when I began my career the technology being used in advertising at the time was primitive compared to what we use today,” Dave says.  “Before computers, we drew marker comps by hand to illustrate advertising ideas for client presentations.  I still carry a few Xacto blade scars from the early days.”

Does tech help or harm creativity?

Now, of course, things that took ages to create can be done much more quickly thanks to technology.  But what’s been the real impact of technology on creativity?  And has technology made it easier or harder to be creative?  The answer lies somewhere in between. “We believe that great creative starts with a strong consumer insight,” he says. “Our creative approach is always closely tied to consumers’ needs and identified through listening and research. Technology really allows us to collect more targeted audience data than in the past and that helps us get to better insight-driven ideas, making it easier to be more creative.” Of course, problems arise when large companies abuse customer data instead of respecting customer data privacy, generating distrust between brands and consumers.  It’s this trust that has become crucial to building a successful brand – more than one in three consumers cite trust as their top reason for shopping with a certain company. “This aggravation has birthed new technologies like ad blockers to keep advertisers away, making it harder to be creative,” Dave notes.

Limitations breed opportunities

While it’s only natural that consumers would take steps to protect their privacy, there are still plenty of non-invasive opportunities for advertising professionals to experiment with delivering messages. “Our creative philosophy has not changed, but our processes have evolved to put new emphasis on creative collaboration involving diverse technology expertise,” he says. It’s collaboration that has always been at the heart of advertising, and that collaboration will help agencies adapt to future technological changes. “The creative process is really about breaking down those siloes,” Dave says.  “We might include a traditional writer and art director team along with an interactive designer, social content creator, and digital media expert on a new project. Harnessing the collective energy and technological expertise of the agency leads to better ideas.”

Embracing Tech to Create Great

Bringing these areas of expertise together often leads to innovative uses of new technologies.  Dave points to the recent “JFK Unsilenced” ad from Irish agency Rothco on behalf of the Times of London as one example, which uses artificial intelligence and thousands of data points to help Kennedy deliver the speech he’d been scheduled to give on the day of his death. “I grew up here in Dallas and my father-in-law was a reporter waiting at the Trade Mart for Kennedy to deliver the speech,” he says. “Being able to hear JFK’s actual voice give that speech is a powerful experience and is a great example of how to use technology to engage a worldwide audience with a brand whose mission is to deliver innovative storytelling and insightful journalism to the global community it serves.” The creative use of AI in this spot points to the limitless potential of technology to make messages that would have never before been possible.  And more traditional digital paths are opening to marketers, like the recently launched IGTV, which presents new avenues in the realm of video. “We have to be hungry for what’s next and always looking for ways brands can leverage technology to attract and engage consumers,” Dave says.  “Of course, the ultimate challenge for creatives in the future will be the same challenge we face today – engage and influence people who don’t want to be interrupted by ads!”

Launch Scholarships Awarded to UNT Communication Design Majors

This past Saturday, we had the pleasure of awarding Mycaela Erben and Regan Weinrich with the 2018 Launch Scholarships at the UNT Communication Design graduation ceremony. Based on a portfolio review, these scholarship awards of $1,000 each are given to the top portfolios for junior design majors. Both Mycaela and Regan achieved outstanding bodies of work, and we believe deserved recognition!  Launch Scholarship winner Mycaela Erben Launch Scholarship winner Mycaela Erben Launch established the annual scholarship in 2007 to inspire creative excellence and make a positive impact on graduates who will, in turn, positively impact our design and advertising community. “We love the caliber of students coming out of the UNT design school,” says Launch Principal Dave Wilgus. “Attracting talented people has always been one of our core values and supporting UNT’s College of Visual Art and Design keeps us closely connected to some of the best talent in the country.  We are proud to continue to support these students in their design pursuits.”

Launch Agency wins 2018 Dallas ADDY Awards

Launch, consumer insights and creative agency specializing in fast-growth brands, was recognized for excellence by the 2018 Dallas ADDY Awards.  This is the 15th year running the shop has taken home honors from the event, which celebrates area talent, and the best in design and advertising. This year’s winners were for Logo Design on behalf of One Arts Plaza, the lively skyscraper and business park in the heart of the Dallas Arts District, conceived by visionary developer Lucy Crow Billingsley.  The agency also placed in the Public Service Online/Interactive category for The Stallings Award, named after football legend and humanitarian Gene Stallings. Winners of the award include TCU coach Gary Patterson (2018), Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and UT’s Mack Brown, among others.

One Arts Plaza

An architectural breakthrough in urban multi-use communities, One Arts Plaza has been a fixture of the Dallas Arts District since 2005. Home to a 24-story skyscraper and bustling plaza, it is a hub for live entertainment, rotating art exhibits and a collection of popular restaurant fare. While One Arts has remained vibrant, Billingsley tapped Launch to infuse its thirteen-year-old brand with the edge and excitement of the venue.   One Arts Plaza  One Arts Plaza “The updated typeface is reminiscent of the original but bolder,” says Carolyn Sexton, Launch Senior Art Director. “We added angled strokes off certain letters in the name to lend energy and a sense of playfulness.  We also retained the neon red square, an icon on the Dallas skyline, resulting in an evolution that melds heritage with a clean, modern twist.”
Amy Woods – Account Executive
Diane Seimetz – Brand Strategy
Dave Wilgus – Creative Director
Carolyn Sexton – Art Director
Amy Nortman  – Art Director

The Stallings Award

Through its long-standing relationship with The Ashford Rise School of Dallas, Launch had the opportunity to create a new visual identity for The Stallings Award.  The award benefits the school, which is dedicated to providing quality education to preschool students with developmental disabilities.  It is named after Texas A&M player and coach, Gene Stallings, whose late son, Johnny, had Down Syndrome. “Our goal was to convey the enormous positive impact Coach Stallings, the award recipients and sponsors – as well as The Rise School – have had on children with developmental delays,” says Alex Slotkin, Launch Associate Creative Director on the project. John Poston, Rise School of Dallas co-founder, commissioned a companion e-brochure, designed to persuade ESPN execs to add the Stallings Awards to their annual College Football Awards show. The strategy was a successful one, and the event will now reach a national and international audience.
Michael Boone – Account Executive
Alex Slotkin – Copywriter
Carolyn Sexton – Art Director

15 Things We’ve Learned in 15 Years of Business

It’s a little hard to believe, but Launch turned 15 this year, and in honor of this milestone, we wanted to take time to reflect.  There’ve been many big changes in 15 years – from clients won and lost, to birthdays, anniversaries, births and deaths, to the rise of the digital age that has changed advertising in numerous ways.  The diverse bunch of talented employees that we’ve gathered from different cities, backgrounds, and age groups have weathered it through thick and thin, and all learned something along the way.  Launchers share the most important thing they’ve learned from their time in the working world below. 1) “What I’ve learned in 15 years is that building strong personal relationships with current and future clients is one of the main keys to success.” – Jason Giles, Account Director 2) “Clients can be your best creative people.” – Diane Seimetz, Principal 3) “Think outside your own demographic. I am not always the target audience. You have to be aware that even if it doesn’t appeal or make sense to you, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right strategy for what you are creating.” – Richard Wezensky, Associate Creative Director 4) “I have learned that I always performed better at jobs where recognition and employee morale were priorities. When there is a healthy mixture of constructive criticism and recognition for a job well done, it has fostered a more positive experience for me and helped me grow.” – Preciosa Johnson, Office Manager 5) “The main thing I’ve learned is that one of your greatest assets is to be flexible. Budgets get cut, deadlines move up, clients change their mind, social media specs and regulations transform weekly, natural disasters cause shipping delays, etc. If you can take it in stride with a smile on your face, then you and your team are much better off. It’ll all get done one way or another!” – Carolyn Sexton, Art Director 6) “As a creative person and writer, I have learned that shifting my environment and tools can stimulate different modes of thinking. When I’m ideating, I like to get away from the desk and out of the office, and capture ideas by hand with paper and pencil. It helps to silence my inner editor and gives me the freedom to generate tons of ideas. However, when I’m doing heavy writing or revision, sitting at my desk with a laptop that offers the ability to type quickly, cut, paste and use keyboard shortcuts is a real godsend.” – Alex Slotkin, Associate Creative Director 7) “Always be on the lookout for creative opportunities, even in the most unexpected places and keep the passion for creativity alive.” – Brittany Frazier, Digital Production 8) “Great creative can only happen with great clients. Our best work was done for clients who we have close, trusting relationships with.” – David Wilgus, Principal 9) “Asking the right questions is so important. You can save a lot of time going back and forth with a client if you ask good questions from the get-go. It’s also helpful for the creative process – if Account Managers/Project Managers can present the right question or problem in a brief, the creatives have more to work with. Per Luke Sullivan – ‘Creativity happens in response to a problem.’” – Alexa Perez, Project Manager 10) “Help will come from unexpected places. Especially for start-up companies. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice – if you wait or assume, it may not come.” – Michael Boone, Principal 11) “Be as patient as you can, both with clients and your coworkers.  What makes sense to you may not make sense initially to someone else, and learning how to be patient is key.  It can save a lot of confusion down the road and help a client or coworker learn something new in the process.” – Caroline Gillan, Digital Content Specialist 12) “Every day is an opportunity to learn – no project is exactly the same and if you are willing, you gain the ability to understand how to tackle future projects, overwhelming jobs, and difficult timelines.” – Zach Deutsch, Account Executive 13) “Fear is temporary, regret is forever.  Go for it.” – Diane Seimetz, Principal 14) “Be kind to the people you work with. We spend a tremendous amount of our waking hours at work and the way we treat each other is incredibly important. I have been extremely fortunate to work with some amazingly talented and genuinely nice people over the last 15 years.” – Dave Wilgus, Principal 15) “Through all the emerging technologies, new media and cultural changes, this business still comes down to great ideas, well told that inform, persuade and even entertain, not annoy or beg to be skipped. Easier said than done.” – Michael Boone, Principal

Advertising Isn’t Dead, it Just Smells Funny: Report from ad:tech New York

This past November, Associate Creative Director Alex Slotkin had the opportunity to visit New York City for the ad:tech conference, held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. He was surrounded by people from lots of high-profile organizations, from Amazon, Google and McDonald’s to agencies like David & Goliath and Droga5 and even academics from Harvard and St. John’s. Needless to say, it was a knowledgeable crowd.

The event was billed as “how to innovate in the post-advertising era and move our industry forward.” But the burning question on his mind (and no doubt those of many other attendees) was more like: “What is happening to advertising, and what the heck are we supposed to do about it?” Two days and nineteen seminars later, Alex has some answers.


It’s not the end of advertising, it’s the end of interruption

“One thing every panelist and presenter seemed to agree on was that agencies and brands can no longer rely on getting in the way of what people want to see,” says Alex.

Technology and societal changes have radically increased consumers’ options and changed their expectations—especially when it comes to Gen Z. They want to be engaged, not interrupted, and they are way too savvy to be held captive to traditional marketing.

“Instead of interrupting someone’s day with a mass marketing message, we need to shift to giving people what they actually want,” says Alex.  “Think branded utility:  providing helpful tools to solve their real-world problems and improve their lives. Also think branded entertainment and experiences:  content they’ll actively seek out because it’s truly awesome, not something they have to endure to get to the good stuff.”

 A bit of downtime between panelists. A bit of downtime between panelists.


Stop thinking like a brand. Start thinking like a person

A word that came up again and again at the conference was authenticity. As Iwona Alter, CMO of Jack in the Box, said, we must “engage authentically [and] connect intimately.” This means moving from a transactional to an emotional mindset, and thinking of our audience not in terms of what they buy but what they believe in. It’s an area in which social media excels, making our messages feel less like marketing and more like a conversation between people.


Take a digital-first approach

Traditional agencies often treat digital as a second-class citizen, one expected to pick up on concepts created originally for TV and print. But more and more, consumers are making social media and digital outlets their primary source for entertainment and information, so we need to make it our primary vehicle for brands.

“By thinking digital-first, we can unlock innovative new ways to break through and connect, without being hamstrung by the constraints of traditional media,” says Alex.

A prime example presented at the conference was the Nissan Battle Test VR experience, a fully immersive virtual test drive of the Nissan Rogue across a planet-scape from Star Wars: Rogue One. Another was an Intel-sponsored staging of The Tempest with the Royal Shakespeare Company, featuring motion capture technology that allows actors to play virtual, holographic characters that are fully integrated with live performers. Neither experience could have happened if their respective brands hadn’t started with a digital mindset.


Be transparent

Another big word at the conference was transparency.

“In the digital/online age, we can’t hide the truth from consumers, so we must take the risk of being honest with them to create a sense of trust—flaws and all,” says Alex. “Transparency also needs to extend to our partnerships with clients, media partners and data providers. By moving away from a proprietary, walled-garden mentality and toward a spirit of collaboration, sharing, and honesty, we can all benefit.”


Be dynamic

These days, everything is becoming a video game. Audiences expect to be active participants, interacting with content instead of just consuming it. Meanwhile, Gen Z-ers have made the camera on their smartphone their new home screen, giving them the ability to create, remix and share at a moment’s notice. As such, we need to start focusing on user-created experiences instead of pre-scripted narratives. This means relinquishing control over our messages, and inviting users to join in and create with us, giving them the feeling that the brand is responding to them in real time.


Be culture-savvy

It’s our responsibility to be students of the zeitgeist and fluent in the cultural language, particularly when it comes to Gen Z. Going back to authenticity, it is not enough to merely name-check music, movies, TV shows, celebrity culture, and slang.

“We must develop a real, nuanced understanding of how they work and get involved with creators in deep, meaningful ways,” says Alex. “If we only have a surface understanding and don’t sweat the details, we risk doing more harm than good to our brands.”


 Image c/o Jack in the Box Image c/o Jack in the Box

A great example that cropped up at the conference was Jack in the Box’s Robot Delivery, which smartly tapped into the disruptive technology du jour of Uber and Doordash. Jack in the Box also found a way to reach ad-averse gamers by creating custom “Crave Vans mods,” which added branded skins to on-screen cars in a popular video game.


Get in early and stand out

As consumers become more informed, and as AI tech like Alexa starts to influence their buying decisions (or even chooses for them), brand loyalty continues to erode. A recent study from McKinsey found that 87% of consumers now shop around vs. sticking to brands they know, and 50% shift brands from purchase to purchase.

This underscores the importance of keeping our brands relevant.

“We must practice ‘pre-tail,’ or getting noticed early in the customer journey,” says Alex. “We can use data for a better understanding of our customers and where they look for ideas even before they are in purchase mode.”

And when we’re needed, we need to be present and stand out with smart messaging in the right places, while keeping a close eye on our online reputation.


Harness emerging tech tools and trends

As you would expect from a conference called ad:tech, new and emerging technologies were a major focus of discussion. Here are the ones that featured most prominently:

  • AI (artificial intelligence): The glut of data out there offers incredible opportunity—but it can also lead to cognitive overload. This is where AI shines, turning data into meaning more readily. Despite some of the fears around AI, it is most useful as an enhancement to human interaction rather than a replacement. We see this now with intelligent agents, such as online chatbots and Alexa, which answer questions and help customers make smart decisions in a more efficient way. But the future of this technology is in creating “artificial empathy” and a more “human-literate” experience. To stay in front of this trend, agencies need to start acting like “AI-gencies.” This means thinking in terms of non-linear, dynamic storytelling (or narratology), where copywriting gives way to character development and art direction becomes narrative design. AI can also help agencies rethink production, treating creative content as modular pieces that can be automatically combined on the fly to produce custom-tailored messages for specific audiences.
  • AR (augmented reality): The ability to create a data and/or graphical overlay over the real world using camera tracking and mobile and wearable devices is a trend that will continue to grow, especially with emerging standards like ARKit from Apple. This gives us an opportunity to create interactive, branded experiences that are deeply engaging and incredibly sharable. We see this now with AR games like Pokemon Go and the Animoji feature on the new iPhone X. Another great example at the conference was Nissan’s Diehard Fan campaign, allowing college football fans to apply virtual face-paint and create custom videos supporting their favorite team.
  • Blockchain: As the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Blockchain has become somewhat of a buzzword. But it is playing an increasingly important role in the world of digital marketing, given its ability to create a trusted relationship with consumers. By using a highly encrypted, peer-to-peer shared ledger system without gatekeepers, Blockchain helps users control and share their personal data with marketers in a trusted way. As brands and agencies depend more on rich data to tailor messages, technologies like Blockchain that encourage sharing will be vital. And because users have greater control over how their personal information is shared, we must offer content they truly value in exchange for their personal information and be transparent about it.
  • Podcasts: Unlike traditional terrestrial radio, podcasts provide a sense of intimacy and authenticity you can’t find in other media. As one panelist put it, podcasts deliver “a full-size experience on a mobile device.” By working with established podcasters, as well as creating our own original branded podcasts, we can build an ongoing relationship and sense of trust with niche audiences that represent the sweet spot for our brands.
  • Voice: With the rise of Alexa, Google Home and Siri, it’s clear that voice interfaces are one of the next frontiers for marketing. One panelist claimed that, by 2020, 70% of households will own a two-way audio device. This begs the question: What does our brand sound like? And how can we use this technology to create brand conversations with consumers? Because these interfaces are receiving constant updates and gaining new abilities, we need to start finding ways to be present on them. The best place to start is by focusing on what customers already want and need most from our brands, then figuring out how to convert that into a voice-activated request.


The bottom line

Frank Zappa said it best in his quote about the state of jazz music: “Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.” Like jazz, the advertising business isn’t going anywhere. But it is changing, and it may even seem unrecognizable at times. If we have the bravery to adapt to the changes instead of hanging on to the past, we can be even better at reaching consumers.

But to get there, we must focus on being informative and entertaining instead of interruptive and annoying.

“We need to foster better collaboration between creative and technical experts and think tech first,” says Alex. “We need to shift our creative process from pre-scripted to hyper-personalized. We need to bring in people from lots of different disciplines and cultivate agency hybrids. And most of all, we must realize that by becoming fluent with the changes.”


Typographics Festival: An Art Director’s Experience

Art Director Carolyn Sexton recently had the opportunity to attend the Typographics design festival in New York City,  centered around contemporary typography. The midpoint of the festival is a 2-day conference that bridges together two weeks of workshops and tours. With a more specific audience and only being in its third year, all attendees were able to fit in the Great Hall at The Cooper Union. Although the physical environment was on a smaller scale compared to other conferences she’s attended, there was not a lack of energy, wisdom or inspiration. “The next two days were a whirlwind,” says Carolyn.  “I heard over 20 speakers from all over the world discussing topics on graphic design and type design. Each talk was only 30 minutes and you could tell that the presenters felt a little rushed, but I took away a lot in just half an hour.” Check out a few of Carolyn’s favorites from the panels below:  Whitney Museum collateral, c/o  Grafik  Whitney Museum collateral, c/o Grafik

“It’s not Helvetica, and other facts about designing for the Whitney”

by Hilary Greenbaum, Whitney Museum of American Art Hilary spoke about the rebranding of the Whitney Museum and how her small team of in-house designers has maintained and established the identity system through an array of marketing, print materials, digital media, exhibition graphics, and signage. The challenges are very similar to those Launch faces with long-standing client, Park Place Dealerships. Substitute museum exhibitions with luxury car manufacturers and dealerships, and you have the same concept of creating consistency across the brand. She talked about how to push your design within the “rules,” and how sometimes you have to be willing to break your own guidelines.  “Silence = Death” AIDs poster, created by Avram Finklestein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione, and Jorge Soccaras, c/o ACT UP

“Resist Typography”

by Marlene McCarty ­Marlene explored how typography is used in political and social activist movements. Decades ago, protest posters utilized great design and branding. They were clean, simple and had a sense of uniformity. This can be seen in the AIDS marches during the 1980s. However, the posters of more recent years have seen a shift away from branding because of the subliminal association with big business and advertising. Now more than ever we have the digital tools to create well-designed activist posters and signage, but we’re choosing to create something handmade. Just look at posters from the Women’s March.  The message was unified but was communicated a hundred different ways with a hundred different mediums. This desire for authenticity has bled into the advertising world, where brands want personal connection with their customers and don’t want to be perceived as too corporate.  Seattle Women's March,  c/o Edith B. and A Mighty Girl  Seattle Women’s March, c/o Edith B. and A Mighty Girl  Ken Barber leading the class Ken Barber leading the class

Spencerian Letter Workshop

by Ken Barber Following the conference, Carolyn took a 2-day workshop on Spencerian Letter with Ken Barber. “This was probably the highlight of my trip,” she says. “Leading up to the workshop, I was geeking out over the newly released ‘House Industries’ book that Ken co-authored. To say I had high expectations for the workshop would be an understatement, and Ken did not disappoint. He was extremely knowledgeable and encouraging. I learned a ton about this extravagant lettering style, as well as other tips and tricks I can apply to future projects.”  Some lettering examples Some lettering examples