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News Design: Australian-raised digital pioneer plants his boots in Fort Worth

Design: Australian-raised digital pioneer plants his boots in Fort Worth

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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.

Robert Francis rfrancis@bizpress.net

Douglas Cox runs a full-service digital agency that brings the latest in technology to bear for his clients, that range from small mom-and-pop shops to high-profile businesses like Hillwood. So you might expect the agency to be in some technology or creative hot spot in a building stuffed with the latest, fresh-from-Silicon Valley gadgets. Instead, as the agency’s name, Ride for the Brand, implies, you might see a couple of cowboys or cowgirls riding horses down the street in front of the office in The Cody Building in Fort Worth’s Stockyards.

Cox founded his agency in a slightly off-the-wall location for a reason: culture. “Here we are in a 103-year-old building where people ride by on horses all the time,” he says. “We get clients from Dallas and around the country and take them down for a steak or a beer and that’s where it all starts to come together – that western spirit and technology, when we start talking about what their needs are and what we can offer them. That’s where the fun starts.” The fun started in 2010 when Cox founded his agency after leaving Concussion. The name of the agency comes from a poem by cowboy poet Red Steagall: “Son, a man’s brand is his own special mark that says this is mine, leave it alone. You hire out to a man, ride for his brand and protect it like it was your own.”

“That’s what we do,” said Cox. “When we take on a project, we ride for the brand. It’s a little different take than most agencies have on the world.” Cox’s take on the world is, justifiably, a bit different. Born in Texas, he and his family left for Australia when he was 10. He spent many years there eventually graduating from Monash University in Melbourne. Even in Australia, Cox spent time in Australia’s version of the Wild West, the outback. After his wife took a job in the Dallas area, Cox found himself back in Texas, but in Dallas, where he never felt he quite fit in. A few trips to Fort Worth gave him a taste of what he was missing from Australia, and from that cowboy philosophy that he missed. “It seems strange, it’s not that far from Dallas, but the difference in attitude, the difference in the way Fort Worth does business is noticeable,” said Cox, who still has vestiges of his Australian accent. “In Fort Worth it’s that ‘word is your bond’ idea that fits in with my philosophy.”

After working for Concussion for several years, and eventually moving to Fort Worth, Cox decided to strike out on his own. Part of the reason is that he wants to help develop more agency talent in the Fort Worth area. “When I started at Concussion we were hiring a lot of people from Dallas because that’s where the expertise was,” he said. “Very often when people left, they would just go back to Dallas or New York or wherever. I want to help keep that talent here. “ Ride for the Brand currently has 10 employees. Cox says he has a nice mix of web and creative teams. “If you’re a designer, a creative type here, you have to know some code and conversely, if you’re doing code, you have to know some design,” he said. “Trust me, beautiful design and beautiful code fight, so they’ve got to understand each other to make something really work.”

Cox, principal at the firm, designed his first website in 1997. He is now recognized as a digital pioneer with expertise in digital design, digital development, mobile design and development, flash programming, database development, search engine optimization and search marketing, winning several awards – Addys, Adweek’s W3 and Interactive Media Awards – in the process. But what keeps him motivated is the interactive environment that continues to offer new challenges.

“If you’re set in your ways it’s not going to work,” he says. “Every day a client asks me, ‘Hey can you integrate this with Ticketmaster?’ or ‘Hey can you integrate this into this framework you’ve never heard of?’ If you’re scared of change, you’ll just say no. “For me, I look at this business with more of that cowboy can-do spirit. If you’ve got a problem, I’ll help you fix it.”  


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