When Teri Rogers, CEO of Kansas City-based T2 Studios, felt it was time to expand her fast-growing experiential division XL, she went against the traditional wisdom of opening in L.A. or Dallas by heading for Chicago as the opportune market.
Instead of a new office start-up in a city where both XL and the market were unknown to each other, Rogers opted for teaming up with a known entity – a complementary Chicago company that would provide the photorealistic and 3D skills required for XL’s experiential design projects.
After months of talking to various local visual effects houses, Rogers partnered with CGI designer Brian Bullock and facilitator John McGrath’s Re:think Studios and sealed the deal by transferring an artist and lead designer from Kansas City to Re:think’s West Loop office.
Rogers calls Re:think “an ideal partner” and McGrath calls the arrangement “a harmonious liaison for both of us.”
Experiential gets top tier agency attention
A new, growing and largely untapped visual genre, Rogers defines experiential design as “a cutting edge marketing tool that connects brands with their customers through an experience – either through a physical installation or an interactive digital experience.
“Creating that experience can be done in a number of ways, often involving interactive/dynamic projection or light installations, as well as augmented reality apps or games — that deliver critical audience analytics and consumer data,” she says.
In the past month, agencies have been intently receptive to experiential presentations by Rogers and members of her “band of magicians” and Bullock and McGrath.
“Agencies have brought in their cadre of big thinkers, who are looking for what’s next in creative opportunities that are out there, like experiential” and it quickly spread throughout the agency, notes McGrath.
“We’ll leave a meeting and 20 minutes later we’ll get a call to present to another part of the agency that we didn’t know existed before. It’s a little bit of the Wild West, and that’s exciting for Brian and me,” says McGrath.
Conversations about experiential work nearly always converge off of the more traditional advertising venues and supplement that work, Bullock adds. “Sometimes the experiential creative work not only supplements the other creative work but can begin to lead it.”
XL/Re:think is currently exploring a couple of agency design projects, which also will solidify how they will meld their respective skills.
T2 Kansas City’s biggest production entity
Rogers’ original Take Two post house, which she founded in 1998 after owning a previous production company, evolved into T2 Studios, the umbrella brand for four fairly new, related business units. Its client roster includes Sprint, Missouri Lottery, Nascar Kansas Speedway, McDonald’s, On the Border, Petsmart, and several noted medical institutions.
The other divisions are Back Alley, created as an agency-focused full service production/post house; direct-to-client Speakeasy, a concept-to-completion digital production group and Crossroads Entertainment, a development group for docu series and reality programming.
If Rogers has a mantra, it’s “change is the reality and it makes us better at what we do.”
Re:think expanding to larger West Loop offices
In 2009, Rogers formed XL, whose “band of magicians” – artists, programmers, engineers, widget makers led by creative director Garrett Fuselier. XL turned out to be an overnight success. It has created massive installations for Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts and Truman Medical Center, and smaller installations for Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau and H&R Block, among others.
So far, XL’s artist and lead designer Claudia Chagui has made a permanent move to Chicago and there will be plenty of room for expansion when Re:think Studios moves into 3,600-sq. ft. of renovated new space at 200 N. Ada St.
The move will coincide with Re:Think Studios’ first anniversary. Bullock and McGrath had worked together at Cutters; Bullock for 10 years as CGI director of Sol FX division, and McGrath the facility’s general manager for 20 years. When Bullock broke away to start Re:think, he invited McGrath to join the new venture. Two years earlier, McGrath had left Cutters to follow personal pursuits.
Re:Think has a growing staff of six, including 3D modelers, animators, lighters, and clients including effects for a soon-t-air commercial for New York agency Sudler-Hennessey; CG work for Vitacraves/Energy BBDO; production, effects and finishing for ESPN 2012 Draft/The Vault and Norelco/Walton Isaacson.