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Area firm plays role in marketing vanity plates

By Mike Elswick
March 11, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Texans love to strut their individuality.

That passion to spread a personal message on a small but highly visible canvas - the license plate - has resulted in millions of additional dollars for the state's general revenue fund.

Texans love to strut their individuality.

That passion to spread a personal message on a small but highly visible canvas - the license plate - has resulted in millions of additional dollars for the state's general revenue fund. It also has provided a boom in business for Longview-based Encore Multimedia, the advertising and marketing firm that landed the contract to help spread the word across the Lone Star state about such license plates through the My Plates campaign.

Dean Waskowiak, president of Encore, said the firm's latest effort to market Texas license plates is the "Say More With Seven" campaign that continues through Wednesday. The program allows Texans to put seven characters, either letters, numbers or a combination of both, on their license plates. In the past, with the exception of a couple of other similar limited-time offers, Texans wanting personal messages on their license plates have been limited to six characters, Waskowiak said.

"Until the My Plates program, Texans had never been able to get seven letters on a personalized official Texas plate - though Texas has had personalized plates since 1965," he said.

Waskowiak said adding that additional character opens the door to allow for tens of thousands more potential messages - and names - to be emblazoned on license plates.

Since the My Plates campaign kicked off in 2009, motorists have purchased more than 83,000 personalized license plates, Waskowiak said. That has put more than $8.7 million in the state's general operating fund.

Because Texans register more than 21 million vehicles each year, there is a lot of room for growth, he said.

Encore Multimedia is a subcontractor for the vendor partners that have the contract to develop and market the plates for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. My Plates is a joint venture of Nacogdoches-based Etech and Pinnacle Technical Resources of Dallas.

Waskowiak said in addition to bringing additional revenue to Encore Multimedia, the campaign has been one his staff enjoys putting their creative juices to work on.

"The product is fun to talk about, use and market," he said. "My Plates, the company, is a great company to do work for," Waskowiak said.

"The president, Steve Farrar is a very savvy entrepreneur and is very creative," he said. And My Plates has grown to be Encore's largest account.

When the Longview firm was first hired for the project in 2009, the agency's budget was in the mid-six figure range. This year the firm's budget on the campaign is in the low seven-figures and expected to more than double in the next few years, he said.

"Of course we all like that at Encore Multimedia," Waskowiak said. "Not too many accounts like that come to East Texas. So we feel very fortunate and are extremely thankful to God and My Plates."

He said it is also rewarding for Encore's staff to see the plates designed in Longview on cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, RVs and trailers wherever they travel in the state.

Waskowiak said Encore's participation in the campaign means that three staffers out of 18 on the Longview payroll are dedicated almost exclusively to My Plates.

"That results in additional tax revenue and the purchase of local goods and services that help fuel the economy," he said. "It means that a Longview advertising firm beat out dozens of other very large advertising companies from around the country to be able to assist in marketing this account."

Encore's participation also means 20 East Texans have been gracing TV screens all across the state as commercials produced locally have been airing in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Lubbock, Waco, and recently for the first time in East Texas.

Waskowiak said even after the special seven-day sale on the seven character license plates there are about "140 very cool license plates of all kinds from college team plates from in and out of Texas, charity plates, corporate plates, color plates, black, white, Mavericks, Cowboys, Rockets, Texans, NASCAR and on I could go that you can personalize or just get the plate."

"My Plates is set to deliver a minimum of $25 million to the state of Texas general revenue fund at the end of the first five years of plate sales at no cost to the state, he said. Perhaps the best part for the state and its taxpayers is that there is no cost to the state.

"The program is completely funded by the private vendor," Waskowiak said. It is only a revenue generator for the state, he said.

"For the state to staff a company like My Plates and pay for all the expenses for the program, it would be a money looser," Waskowiak said. "Instead the state of Texas will get a minimum guaranteed $25 million of revenue. That's a win, win for everyone."

Encore Multimedia staff and East Texans featured in the My Plates campaign have also benefited from the exposure the program has reaped, he said.

"We have had the opportunity to be involved in some cool events like the Great Texas Plate Auction last year in Cowboy Stadium that received an estimated $3 million of national news media coverage from Fox News, AP, NBC and many other national, state and regional media outlets," Waskowiak said.

"We helped put that event on. It was cool to take over the field at Texas Stadium with all the auction event glamour and prestige," he said. "Our TV commercials and long form videos that had East Texas people in them aired on the big screen at Cowboy Stadium all through the night of the event that raised over $130,000 for various charities."

Waskowiak said the most expensive personalized license plate ever purchased in Texas was sold that night - FERARRI - for $15,000.

The initial My Plates contract with the state is for five years, but is renewable, he said.

"We hope to be with My Plates for a long time," Waskowiak said. "After the national media coverage at the Great Texas Plate Auction, other states have been in contact with My Plates. I don't know where that will lead, but to do this in other states would be cool to say the least.



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