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Stimulus and response: Concussion morphs into new name: Pavlov

🕐 4 min read

Robert Francis

Concussion is all about branding. The 13-year-old Fort Worth agency has made its mark with bold, aggressive campaigns. Look no further than its own ads featuring a florescent orange grenade. Got the message? If not, the theme carried over into the firm’s custom designed Concussiontini, an orange martini featured at several area events with grenade-like properties of its own. Now, however, Concussion is challenging itself.

Not with just a new brand, but a new name: Pavlov. The new name, a reference to Russian researcher Ivan Pavlov, repositions the firm as a digital, branding and creative “stimulus lab” expert at stirring consumer action, according to a news release. Pavlov is credited as one of the first researchers to recognize the concepts of conditioned behavior and, key to Concussion’s business, stimulus and response. According to CEO Allen Wallach, the company renaming/rebranding effort was necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing business environment. It is also a way for the firm to challenge itself. “What is the opposite of complacency?” Wallach asks as way of explanation. It also serves as a definitive case study for the firm that routinely leads its clients through strategic branding exercises, he said. The Pavlov name, which in its logo format makes use of the “<” less than and “>” greater than signs, was a universal choice among the agency leaders and its employees. “Our trademark attorney said, ‘I can’t believe another agency in this country hasn’t applied for this trademark,’” said Wallach. “There’s a scientific underpinning to our new guiding force,” he said. “Clients want an agency that is smart and we’re smart, sophisticated, cutting edge. We’re…irreverent, is a good word.” Wallach also noted that the agency – founded in 2001 – originally made its name in the traditional advertising world of TV, radio, print and outdoor, “that whole suite of offerings, but since our inception digital has taken over and we’ve kept pace.” “We have a proven method in the digital world that will return on investment,” he said.

The firm, which had 2013 capitalized billings of $16.6 million, has taken on plenty of challenges over the years, handling accounts as diverse as casinos to Chesapeake Energy during the Barnett Shale boom to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Firm leaders took Amon G. Carter-like pride in being a Fort Worth firm that scored a Dallas account when it landed the Dallas Area Rapid Transit business in 2009. The name change and rebranding follows a shift in ownership: In September 2013 Wallach and Andrew Yanez, founding partners of the Fort Worth-based advertising agency, ended their 12-year partnership. Wallach took over management of Concussion’s business, while Yanez launched his own firm, PytchBlack. While Concussion engaged high-profile brands such as Konami, Texas Motor Speedway, Dean Foods’ Borden Cremora Non-Dairy Creamer, Chesapeake Energy, Texas Christian University football, Brinker International’s On The Border restaurants and Bell Helicopter, it also played a role in the modern renaissance of the Fort Worth advertising community. Susan Cook, past-president of the American Advertising Federation-Fort Worth and a graphic designer, said leaders at area agencies and advertising leaders were concerned in the late ‘90s and early 2000s about the future of the local advertising community. “There had been a lot of cutbacks among local agencies [then],” said Cook. A new local president of the AAF came in and Concussion, which was in charge of the Addy awards in 2007, came up with a whip-smart campaign to drive interest, entries and attendance: Submit or Be Dominated. That theme, reinforced by photos of leather-clad dominatrixes, was controversial, but memorable. It did, in fact, stimulate the response members wanted: It drove entries and attendance, said Cook. “Concussion did an amazing job of making it edgy but not crossing the line,” she said. “That was the beginning of the big turnaround.” There were a few complaints, Cook noted, but there was also interest, participation and attendance. “We compete by day, but at night we flip the switch and don’t compete. The idea was ‘Let’s get together and figure out how we can all benefit.’ A rising tide lifts all boats,” said Wallach.

Raising the profile of Fort Worth agencies has helped all area agencies, as well as Pavlov, in recruiting more talent to the area, noted Cook. “We’re a nationally-capable firm that happens to be based in Fort Worth,” said Wallach. “We’ve been able to hire some very strong talent to come to Fort Worth.” The 30-person firm officially announces the new name at the American Advertising Awards local Addy awards on Feb. 21.  

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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