Creatives Take NYC

From April 25 to May 1, several of our students had the opportunity to tour and network with some of the world’s leading advertising companies during this year’s TAI creative NYC trip which serves as a discovery class. Dr. Mark Allen and Professor Willie Baronet planned and led graduate and undergraduate students in this unique immersive advertising experience.

“As always it was an inspiring and productive time in New York where we took our students to some of the best agencies in the world. Watching them meet our alums and seeing the amazing work they are producing is always a magical experience for me. This year we visited Anomaly, Ogilvy, Momentum, Walrus, NBC Universal, Kenneth Cole Studios, Translation and more!” – Willie Baronet

The first stop on the tour was Johannes Leonardo, a creative firm that encourages customer involvement on behalf of companies. TAI alum Tessa Conti gave us a tour of the distinctive JL church-style facility and updated us about her work with clients including Adidas, Amazon, and Kraft. Later on in the day, we went to Translation with Kaleb Mulugeta, a TAI graduate, and had breathtaking views of the Brooklyn Bridge. AdAge has named Translation the 2022 Agency of the Year and included it on their Agency A-List.

We began our Friday morning at Kenneth Cole Studios, where Maria Cuomo gave us a tour of the facility and shared some of Kenneth Cole’s advice. Despite being a fashion business, we learned about in-house advertising and the brand’s deliberate adherence to its identity. Amol Rana gave us a fascinating tour of Google and displayed some of his YouTube commercials. We had the opportunity to speak with several alumni for a Q&A session at the end of the week, during which we asked them questions regarding their post-college and professional lives and received some incredible advice.

The plan for the weekend was to visit Central Park, see shows on Broadway, and visit museums like the Whitney and MOMA in order to thoroughly immerse oneself in NYC life.

On Monday, we had a great start to the week by going to Momentum Worldwide, here they served us NY way. We learned everything there is to know about experimental advertising, which is the practice of leveraging technology to improve the human experience while creating memories for brands. Former TAI alumni Jordan Chlapecka and Allie Hartman talked about their experiences working with companies like Verizon, Nike, Coke, and AMEX. Next, we visited Ogilvy, where we met up with Helen Rieger and Morgan Hoff, two former SMU students. They were able to demonstrate several projects they had completed for Verizon, Nationwide, and Coca-Cola, but they also gave us advice on how to approach uncertain circumstances proactively when things could change unexpectedly. Deacon Webster’s Walrus was the final agency visit of the day, during which he explained his strategy of being calculating but yet humorous. We concluded Monday night with the senior dinner, where Willie and Mark gave inspirational speeches and many of us shed tears as our seniors begin a new chapter in their life.

On our last day, we began with a visit of the SNL and Jimmy Fallon sets at NBCUniversal. Michael Reidy, an SMU alum, welcomed us with breakfast before the panel discussion began. The panelists stressed that while our creativity will make us stand out, we must also enter this phase of our life with passion and resiliency. Eric Damassa led the final agency visit of the trip, which was Anomoly. Anomoly strives to cooperate with companies like eos, Ranch Water, and Obie that align with its mission. We concluded the trip with the Alumni Networking Event, where we had the chance to socialize with other alumni who live in the city and sing a few karaoke songs to round off our time together.

Overall, there are not enough words to describe our trip, so be sure to watch our reel on Instagram at @smu.advertising!

Willie Baronet Wins HOPE Professor of the Year Award

The Honoring Our Professors’ Excellence (HOPE) Banquet, organized by Southern Methodist University’s Residence Life and Student Housing (RLSH), serves as a symbol of appreciation for faculty excellence. It’s an annual event where students and educators come together to highlight the extraordinary efforts of professors who have gone above and beyond in enriching the educational journey of their students. This year, the spotlight was on Professor Willie Baronet, the Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising at SMU, who was honored with the prestigious HOPE Professor of the Year Award for his commitment to his students and his innovative teaching methods. This award aims to recognize his lasting impact at the Temerlin Advertising Institute and SMU community as a whole.

Creative student Roshan Gupta, a senior studying under Baronet, had the honor of delivering the speech that announced his professor as the HOPE Professor of the Year. Gupta’s words further emphasized Baronet’s influence on his students, saying,

“Willie has been by my side my entire college career…I can confidently say that Willie has had a tremendous impact on who I am today.”

Baronet’s approach to teaching is anything but conventional. His classes are a journey into the depths of creativity and self-exploration, pushing students to unveil parts of themselves and their imaginations they never knew existed. Gupta eloquently shared his transformative experience, stating,

“His classes are not for the faint of heart, and you are pushed to explore vulnerable parts of yourself and your imagination to create work that is fulfilling, meaningful, and intelligent.”

What sets Baronet apart is not just his ability to teach but to inspire. His dedication to cultivating an environment of diverse perspectives allows students to gain a deeper understanding of concepts and themselves.

“Willie transcends traditional teaching methods and implores us to dig as deep as we can into ourselves to find what drives us and gives us purpose.”  – Roshan Gupta

Beyond the classroom, Baronet’s commitment to his students is unparalleled. Whether it is driving to a photo shoot in the middle of the day, hopping on a Zoom call in the midst of his busy schedule, or spending hours just talking, his devotion knows no bounds. As Gupta aptly put it, “I don’t know a single other professor who devotes the same level of care and attention to detail that Willie does for his students inside and outside of the classroom.”

Before joining the academic world, Baronet was the creative director for GroupBaronet (now known as MasonBaronet). His work has also been featured in prestigious publications such as Communication Arts, Graphis, and AIGA Graphic Design Annual, among others. Baronet’s creativity has been recognized with numerous awards from respected organizations, including the Dallas Advertising League and the Dallas Society of Visual Communications, and he has shared his insights on creativity, leadership, and social responsibility with audiences nationwide, including TEDx, Creative Mornings, and more.

Beyond his professional achievements, Willie Baronet has engaged in impactful artistic endeavors, notably his long-term project titled “WE ARE ALL HOMELESS.” Since 1993, Baronet has been collecting signs from homeless individuals, transforming these artifacts into powerful narratives that challenge perceptions and foster empathy. This project has not only been featured across various media platforms but has also been showcased in exhibitions both in the U.S. and the UK.

Willie Baronet’s recognition of the 2024 HOPE Undergrad Professor of the Year Award is a testament to his exceptional role not only as an educator but as a mentor, guide, and inspiration to his students. His innovative teaching methods, coupled with his unwavering dedication, exemplify the best of academic leadership and the impact a passionate professor can have on the lives of their students.

Congratulations, Professor Baronet, on this well-deserved honor. The HOPE Professor of the Year Award is a fitting recognition of your tireless devotion to your students.

From Passion to Profit: Secrets of the Creator Economy

Advertising Seniors: Phillips Wood and Ryan Parry

The rise of the creator economy has been one of the most significant changes to the world of entrepreneurship in recent years. It’s a transformation that has seen entrepreneurs and creators shift their focus from building products and services for consumers to building a company with the consumer, not for them. The creator economy is all about storytelling, community building, and social media, and it’s changing the way we think about entrepreneurship.

At the Next Gen Entrepreneur: Rise of the Creator Economy seminar at South by Southwest, experts in the field provided insights into how entrepreneurs can tap into the creator economy and turn their passion into profit. Colin and Samir, two of the experts who are both co-founders of shopify, emphasized that the key to success in the creator economy is building a brand that reflects who you are and what you care about. Your content should be authentic and engaging, and it should resonate with your audience. When you build a community around your brand, you create a loyal following that will support you and advocate for you.


Social media is one of the driving forces behind the creator economy. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube allow creators to share their content with a massive audience and build relationships with their followers. In this new economy, social media is the digital word of mouth. It’s a way for creators to get their message out there and to connect with people who share their values. Social media also allows creators to be authentic and transparent, which is essential in building trust with their audience.

Building a community is another critical aspect of the creator economy. When people identify with a particular brand or product, they are joining a tribe. They’re aligning themselves with a belief system and associating themselves with a group of like-minded people. This sense of community is incredibly powerful, and it’s something that traditional businesses can’t replicate. The creator economy allows entrepreneurs to create products and services that align with their passions and values and attract a community of like-minded individuals.

To tap into the creator economy, entrepreneurs need to focus on their passion. They need to identify what they are passionate about and build a brand around that passion. This means creating content that reflects who they are and what they care about. When entrepreneurs focus on their passion, they can create authentic content that resonates with their audience and builds a community of loyal followers.

Creatives and operators are another essential aspect of the creator economy. Creatives use YouTube, social media, and other platforms to gain a following by creating content. However, they may lack the skills to monetize their brands themselves. To solve this problem, they lean on operators to manufacture and sell their products, building profit for both parties involved. This is similar to creatives and brand managers within the advertising world, where they both lean on each other for help to produce outstanding work.

The creator economy is not just about making money. It’s also about making a difference in people’s lives. Entrepreneurs in the creator economy have the opportunity to create products and services that align with their values and have a positive impact on their communities. By building a community around their brand, they can create a loyal following that will support them and advocate for them.

In conclusion, building a brand in the creator economy is not easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to take risks. However, the rewards can be enormous. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to build a business that reflects their values and interests by focusing on passion, building a community, and leveraging social media, they can turn their ideas into a successful business. They can create products and services that have a positive impact on their communities and make a difference in people’s lives.

 

STUDENT PERSPECTIVES: Corporate Racism in the Flesh

How One Person’s Viewpoint Can Topple a Whole Organization

Kayla Griffis

By Kayla Griffis
B.A. Advertising, Southern Methodist 
University ’20
M.A. Advertising, Southern Methodist University ’21

A few weeks ago the Dallas advertising industry was shaken to its core. A renowned agency has lost multiple clients in the span of a few days due to a comment made by its founder and owner. If you live in the DFW area or are a part of the advertising industry at large, you will have heard about this controversial statement made by Stan Richards and the severe fallout for The Richards Group. For those who do not know the situation and its impact, here is a quick rundown of what occurred. According to AdWeek, the 88-year-old — during an internal creative review for a campaign for Motel 6 — stated that he felt the concept to promote Black artists’ work was “too Black” for “white supremacist constituents.” This comment somehow made it to the media and Motel 6 immediately dropped The Richards Group as one of their agencies. And within the span of three days, they had lost longtime clients Home Depot, Keurig Dr Pepper, and H.E.B., and new prospective business at Cracker Barrel. The chance of recovery for this agency is in question and Stan Richards has now stated he is stepping down from all operations at the company.

A few days later, Richards seemed to double down on his controversial comments in an interview with Texas Monthly where he stated that he was only “trying to protect the client’s business” and said that the campaign would “run off…their guests.” He declared that the idea that was posed “should have been more multicultural” and that instead “It was very Black.” Richards expressed surprise when he had heard his words had garnered so much backlash and stated that “…instead of using…those three words, I could have said something that was more clouded in its meaning. And it would have saved an awful lot of trouble.” In addition, when he was asked about his white supremacist comment, he further explained that the client didn’t need to lose any of its current business, “even if it was white supremacists who chose not to do business with them.”

Richards outlined the current objectives for The Richards Group and how they plan to generate more awareness around the “potential to create [such] a problem” and said he stands by the fact that his comment was not racist and that he has “never been a racist anytime in [his] life.” He then finishes the interview by stating he will focus on helping students at the Stan Richards School at UT. Richards has also issued a video apologizing to the faculty, alumni, and the students of the school, stating it was “the biggest mistake of [his] life,” and an accompanying note from the director and dean of the Stan Richards School stated that his “racially intolerant and bigoted remarks” were not consistent with the school’s core values and that they will remain committed to “sustaining a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Now let’s be honest. What Richards said was racist. Period. No matter his intentions, stating that he wanted to cater to white supremacist consumers and suppressing Black representation is uncalled for and quite frankly very disturbing. So the consequences that follow should be no different. During the peak of protests against police brutality and the demand for justice after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, many companies called for the support and uplifting of Black voices and hired many artists to help create work. However, that “trend” didn’t last long, because soon after the initial news coverage of the protests started to die down, companies went back to the content they were creating before and the advocacy for Black people seemed to wane. This phenomenon was compounded by the insensitive email that was sent to a Black mural artist from Microsoft requesting that she create an art piece while the Black Lives Matter movement was still “relevant.”

Even though Stan Richards made these racist comments, which demonstrated how one remark can irrevocably ruin your reputation, the situation also demonstrates that the ramifications affect more than just him. Employees of TRG peopleThe Richards Group who didn’t express the same racist sentiments now are facing a future of uncertainty as well as unintended backlash for something they didn’t do. They have to scramble to figure out what the next best step is and balance the idea of jumping off a sinking ship or potentially going down with the captain. Now for some people, these developments may prove profitable since the newly available clients will be looking for another agency to work with and more jobs will be created in those businesses if they win. However, it still doesn’t negate the fact that livelihoods will be lost during a pandemic when the last thing anyone wants is an uptick in unemployment filings. Nevertheless, Stan Richards’ comment managed to severely damage a legacy he spent decades creating and possibly cost hundreds of people their jobs.

There is no shortage of examples for why diversity, equity and inclusion are vital to the growth and success of corporate America and society as a whole and this is just another one added to a never-ending list. Hopefully other companies who may have been remiss will realize that Black peoples’ lives aren’t a trend or something to commodify and do with as they please. This is real life and with our more socially conscious generations speaking out on the travesties and inhuman treatment that have been occurring for centuries, businesses that don’t get on board risk being decimated. So here’s a word of advice. Be a proponent of positive social change for the good of humanity and create work that pushes for a better world for everyone. And if that is too difficult, just not being a downright awful person could also help. And if that is still too much, at least realize that you will no longer make money if you alienate consumers and continue to uphold the discriminatory racist ideals that have plagued the minorities of America since its inception.