New York ad agency helps Arlington junior high school get a new logo

ARLINGTON -- The Bailey Junior High Rams will be getting a new logo soon and, along with it, a nice tale about how playing by the rules can pay off.

The story starts last year. That's when the Arlington campus asked Chrysler, through one of its advertising firms, for permission to use its trademarked Dodge Ram symbol, an image the school had used before.

The car company said no.

Fortunately, the answer didn't stop there.

Story Worldwide, a New York based ad agency that Bailey had contacted, asked their contact at Chrysler for its OK to help Bailey design a brand new ram. Soon, about a dozen students were sitting in front of a laptop, videoconferencing with their creative team in The Big Apple.

"I've never done anything like it before," said Molly Homeyer, 13, an eighth-grader. "It's kind of weird. They're in a different time zone and we're talking to them through the screen."

Pro bono effort

Bailey uses several different versions of a ram. It has been putting an image similar to Dodge's on some of its printed materials for several years, said Debbi Black, the campus's technology manager. She said someone had gotten permission to use it years ago, but that permission apparently only lasted a year.

Black discovered the problem when she tried to have notepads printed at the district's print shop to give teachers for Christmas. An employee there told her she'd have to get the company's approval.

She contacted Story Worldwide, which was then doing blogs for Chrysler. Story asked Chrysler on the school's behalf. When it was told Bailey couldn't use the logo, Story offered to create one for free and Chrysler agreed, said Charles Coxe, the agency's editorial director. It has since finished its work with Chrysler but is still doing the logo for Bailey, Coxe said.

"They made the effort to get the permission, so we wanted to do something to reward that and it's been great to work with them," said Coxe. He believes that it speaks well of Chrysler that it agreed to Story Worldwide's plan to help the school. Not every big corporation would have reacted so amicably, he said.

Video conference

In January, Story Worldwide's staff had an initial video-conferencing meeting with panel of students selected by the school's art teacher. Designers asked them lots of questions about Bailey and what they wanted out of a logo. Then, the agency sent six designs.

Just last week, students and the agency staff met again via the Web to make tweaks to the students' favorite -- a regal beast with "Bailey Rams" under its chin.

"I like the stance, the power, how it puts 'Rams' in the bold," said Shane Dawson, 14, an eighth-grader. "It's not just Bailey, it's rams. People will definitely recognize and remember that."

The situation might not have had such a happy ending.

Last week, National Public Radio reported that Chrysler had threatened to sue a Florida high school for extensive use of an image similar to the Dodge Ram logo. The principal lamented the potential cost of replacing equipment like a gym floor with the ram on it. Spokesman Michael Palese said Chrysler never threatened to sue the school. But he said Chrysler must protect its trademark.

He said both sides have reached a settlement that allows the school flexibility to transition to a new logo.

Bailey Principal Tiffany Benavides said her school will gradually replace its various rams logos, including those that look like the Dodge one. She's excited to see the finished product.

"We're hoping to have an unveiling ceremony, maybe a little reception for the kids," she said. "They've worked really hard on this. It is a unique experience for sure."

TRACI SHURLEY, 817-390-7641