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Richmond, VA, Agency Advertises Itself in Other Richmonds

JULY 16, 2019

Familiar Creatures’ billboards in Richmonds across the country.

Familiar Creatures’ billboards in Richmonds across the country.


To showcase their expertise, one ad agency decided to put their money where their mouth is.

Familiar Creatures, an agency based in Richmond, VA, is advertising their services using billboards in three different markets across the country. The twist? They’re all towns also named Richmond.

In Richmond, CA, Richmond, KY, and Richmond, TX, passersby will encounter a billboard that reads “Helping brands go national. Straight from Richmond*.” Under the asterisk they’ll see, “*Virginia,” plus the agency’s website.

“We wanted to come up with a cheeky way to ‘tell‘ but also ‘show‘ our capabilities to challenger brands across the country,” remarked Dustin Artz, co-founder of Familiar Creatures. “Billboards were a natural fit as we specialize in upper funnel marketing, and they have stopping power that ads on social channels are losing these days.”

Read the full article on Capitol Communicator.



The Pitch: Advertising and Marketing News for 5.14.19

MAY 14, 2019

One of the billboard ads for CarLotz.

One of the billboard ads for CarLotz.



Familiar Creatures developed a campaign for CarLotz. The campaign includes two TV spots, “Soft Jazz Baby” and “Essential Drool,” that will run throughout the year in the Richmond-based used-car dealer’s newest markets in Chicago, San Antonio and Tampa, Florida.

The campaign also includes radio, print, display ads and billboards that launched late last month in all of its markets. Spurrier Group handled media buying and planning, and local brand strategist Rad Tollett provided messaging and media services.

Read the full article on Richmond BizSense.



CarLotz Quirky Ad Shows How Customers Can “Have it Both Ways”

APRIL 29, 2019



Virginia-based used car retailer CarLotz features a couple of quirky characters that can 'have it both ways' in a campaign that features a dog that drools lavender oil and a baby who cries soothing smooth jazz.

The campaign, by Familiar Creatures, centers on people who are getting the best of both worlds. In ‘Essential Drool,’ a woman collects the drool from her bulldog and says that it can be bottled and diffused like fresh lavender scent. Another woman revels in the fact that her baby is both cute and when it cries, it sounds like a smooth jazz combo.

Used car buyers and sellers historically have had two choices: choose between the more lucrative yet dicey world of online classifieds, or the more reliable, yet questionable, savings of a dealership. The campaign shows that CarLotz is different.

“CarLotz has a unique consignment model that lets buyers and sellers have it both ways: the savings and profits of a private sale with the convenience and amenities of a dealership,” said Mike Bor, chief executive officer and co-founder of CarLotz. “This business model and brand promise come to life humorously and persuasively in our new campaign.”

The two commercials will run in CarLotz’s latest expansion markets of Chicago, San Antonio and Tampa.

“We have a great but multi-faceted business model. Our creative agency, Familiar Creatures, did a fantastic job translating it in a concise and compelling way. The ad campaign, along with our new logo, speaks perfectly to the company’s personality and value proposition. Plus, I wish my dog drooled essential oils,” said Elizabeth Maksim, director of branding at CarLotz.

Executions will also include radio, print, display and billboards.

“When we won CarLotz in February, we couldn’t wait to tell the world about their business model. As a challenger brand, they really brought in to doing some pretty unconventional creative,” added Steph Shaw, head of accounts at Familiar Creatures.

The work launches the end of this month and will run throughout the next year.

Read the full article on The Drum.



How Beverage Brands Like Tito’s Drive Engagement With Tech Integrations

APRIL 8, 2019

Devils Backbone Augmented Reality App by Familiar Creatures


Retailers are leveraging responsive in-store technologies, such as interactive shelf displays and AR-powered virtual demos, that supply shoppers with additional information to bring products to life, while also providing valuable data about shoppers’ in-store interactions in order to further refine the brick-and-mortar experience.

Beverages brands are reinventing how their customers engage with their products by accompanying them with mobile app experiences, placing them on smart shelves and more, elevating the experience with digital content to drive interactivity and engagement:

Devils Backbone brewery with packaging by Familiar Creatures

Devils Backbone Brewing Company
AB InBev’s Devils Backbone Brewing Co. in Roseland, Virginia, is experimenting with augmented reality in its packaging. In conjunction with a new app, the AR images on three Devils Backbone beer packages—Vienna Lager, Striped Bass Pale Ale and Gold Leaf Lager—will make the packages appear to come to life when viewed through a smartphone camera.

Read the full article on PSFK.



CarLotz to Launch its First Major Ad Campaign

FEBRUARY 22, 2019

CarLotz’s San Antonio location. Photo courtesy of company.

CarLotz’s San Antonio location. Photo courtesy of company.



RICHMOND, Va. - CarLotz has been in full expansion mode as of late, with the recent opening of its San Antonio location marking a continuation of its 2018 growth pattern that also included new stores in Florida and Illinois. The used-vehicle consignment company now operates eight retail locations and three reconditioning centers in Virginia and North Carolina in addition to the Florida and Illinois sites.

Now, it’s starting its first major advertising launch in multiple U.S. markets. The campaign will launch in April with media buys in Chicago, Tampa and San Antonio.

For that launch, CarLotz is partnering with Richmond-based advertising agency Familiar Creatures, which has been working on the Devils Backbone Brewery’s 2019 advertising campaign. Familiar Creatures co-founder/creative director Dustin Artz said in a news release that his company looks forward to working with CarLotz, which he described as “a disruptive startup who just happens to be based right here in Richmond.”

CarLotz director of branding Elizabeth Maksim was also enthusiastic, describing Familiar Creatures in a news release as “small and nimble like CarLotz.”

For the CarLotz campaign, Familiar Creatures will work with Richmond-based Spurrier Group, which will handle media planning and buying.

CarLotz launched in 2011 in Virginia, eventually adding other locations in that state and North Carolina before continuing its expansion elsewhere.

Read the full article on Auto Remarketing.



CarLotz Taps Richmond-Based Ad Agency for Big Campaign

FEBRUARY 22, 2019

Justin Bajan (left) and Dustin Artz recently launched Familiar Creatures creative agency.

Justin Bajan (left) and Dustin Artz recently launched Familiar Creatures creative agency.



Richmond-based vehicle consignment company CarLotz has tapped relatively new ad agency Familiar Creatures to develop a major advertising campaign.

“We love the chance to help grow a disruptive startup who just happens to be based right here in Richmond,” said Dustin Artz, co-founder and creative director of Familiar Creatures.

Familiar Creatures will be working alongside Spurrier Group, which is handling media planning and buying for CarLotz.

The targeted campaign will launch in April with media buys in Chicago, Tampa, Fla., and San Antonio,  Artz said.

Artz and Justin Bajan, former employees of The Martin Agency, formed Familiar Creatures in 2018. Their first project was helping Nelson County-based Devils Backbone Brewing Co. freshen up its look.

“I knew Familiar Creatures was the perfect agency for us because they’re small and nimble like CarLotz but can deliver killer creative work that is strategically sound. I am fully confident that they will take our brand to the next level,” CarLotz's Elizabeth Maksim, director of branding, said in a statement.

Founded in 2011, CarLotz has eight store locations across Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

Read the full article on Richmond Times Dispatch.



Devils Backbone Brings Beer Packaging to Life with AR

FEBRUARY 13, 2019

Devils Backbone Augmented Reality App by Familiar Creatures



  • Craft brewery Devils Backbone aims to connect with beer lovers with its latest packaging that comes to life on mobile screens in augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital images on the real views of a smartphone camera. Devils Backbone also created an app for Apple and Android devices, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.

  • By scanning printed QR codes on its packaging with a cell phone camera, viewers can see animated stories about its Vienna Lager, Golf Leaf Lager and Striped Bass Ale, letting the brewer tell the story of its beer.

  • The Vienna Lager features a barn swallow that does bird impressions; the Striped Bass Pale Ale has a soulful bass fish that sings about oyster restoration and clean water in Chesapeake Bay; and Gold Leaf Lager shows an impatient dog whose personality contrasts with the brewer's "Slow by nature" slogan.


Devils Backbone aims to tell a brand story in a way that's hard to convey as beer shoppers browse dozens of brands, many with bright packaging but quirky and unfamiliar names. By letting shoppers scan its packaging with a smartphone to activate AR animations, the brewery can provide the equivalent of a TV commercial at a fraction of the cost of media placements. Young adults who are the biggest buyers of craft brews tend to seek brands that are socially conscious and feel more personalized, and Devils Backbone can show its commitment to environment causes like cleaning up pollution in Chesapeake Bay.

Read the full article on Mobile Marketer.



Beer & Branding: Devils Backbone Rebrand

DECEMBER 4, 2018

Anheuser-Busch acquired Devils Backbone in 2016.

Anheuser-Busch acquired Devils Backbone in 2016.



Timed with their 10th anniversary in 2018, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. is modernizing its brand with all new packaging, as well as a refreshed logo, for the first time since brewing its first beer 10 years ago. As the brewery states it, the new packaging design is meant to “exemplify its friendly, approachable, and outdoor personality and ‘Slow by Nature’ messaging.” The look and feel of the packaging refresh is based on a “modern travel poster” with illustrations featuring Virginia outdoor and landscape scenes. To achieve this, Devils Backbone built an impressive creative team (it helps to have A-B money to play with!), enlisting the expertise of Charlottesville-based design agency Okay Yellow in partnership with Familiar Creatures and two different, renowned illustrators: Award-winning Colorado-based illustrator, Brian Miller and Canadian illustrator of over 25 years, David Moore. Whew, did ya catch all that?

The illustrations for each beer are really the homerun of this rebrand. Each bottle label and 6-pack features a custom die cut reflecting the landscape of the Appalachian Mountains, paired with stylized beer names unique to each beer. Those elements, set against the beautiful travel-poster-inspired illustrations create a foundation for the Devils Backbone portfolio, for each beer going forward.

Looking ahead, Devils Backbone’s will continue to roll out new pieces of their new marketing campaign launching in 2019: “Slow by Nature.” This campaign exemplifies how Devils Backbone takes its time making lagers in the Virginia Heartland–a place nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains away from the hustle and bustle of life.

We’ll be patiently awaiting its rollout in ‘19…

Devils Backbone logo before & after

Devils Backbone logo before & after

Read the full article on The Hop Review.



Devils Backbone Celebrates Virginia with New Packaging

OCTOBER 18, 2018

Artists Joel Artz and Dustin Artz working on the new packages. Photograph by Jessica Humphreys, courtesy Devils Backbone.

Artists Joel Artz and Dustin Artz working on the new packages. Photograph by Jessica Humphreys, courtesy Devils Backbone.



When Anheuser-Busch bought bought the Virginia brewery Devils Backbone in 2016, many beer fans feared the transaction would take the “local” out of what was then considered a craft brewery. Those qualms may have abated as time passed. The biggest effect, from your average beer enthusiast’s point of view, anyway, was that it got easier to find Devils Backbone beers at the supermarket.

Starting last month, those customers may have finally noticed a change to the company’s products: Now they show off more of their home state. The old packaging grew organically in the company’s first decade in business, says Marisa Black, Devils Backbone’s director of marketing. While most products hewed to Devils Backbone’s distinctive illustration style, things could get a bit eclectic. “When you put it all on the shelf together, it looked like packaging from six different breweries,” she says. 

There was another problem: The Mid-Atlantic provenance of the beer wasn’t always clear. The packaging for its seasonal Danzig porter, for instance, showed a wind-battered town on the Baltic Sea; the art on its popular Vienna Lager didn’t necessarily evoke Virginia’s beauty. “We wanted to tell less a story of Vienna in Austria and more of a story of where we’re from,” Black says.

So Devils Backbone engaged Charlottesville design firm Okay Yellow and Richmond agency Familiar Creatures to rethink its packaging. The result recalls travel posters from the 1930s and ’40s, all showing scenes from Virginia. “There isn’t that nationally known culture of Virginia that people can say, ‘Oh this is what’s in Virginia,'” Black says, adding that the company is hoping to help change that.

Read the full article on Washingtonian.



Biz Buzz: New Ad Agency Freshens Up Devils Backbone Brewery Look

OCTOBER 14, 2018

Justin Bajan (left) and Dustin Artz recently launched Familiar Creatures creative agency.

Justin Bajan (left) and Dustin Artz recently launched Familiar Creatures creative agency.



New advertising agency Familiar Creatures is helping Nelson County-based Devils Backbone Brewing Co. freshen up its look.

Dustin Artz and Justin Bajan are the creatives behind the new agency, which has an office in Richmond.

Artz said his brother’s agency, Okay Yellow in Charlottesville, designed Devils Backbone packaging for several years.

Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired craft brewery Devils Backbone in 2016. Artz said his brother Joel Artz and Okay Yellow had to compete for the account.

“So I helped him pitch and retain the business against three large, out-of-town agencies, led the identity and packaging redesign for him, and then started Familiar Creatures to handle their advertising business,” Dustin Artz said.

A full advertising campaign is coming in the next couple of months, he said.

At Familiar Creatures, Dustin Artz is in charge of art direction and design. Bajan oversees writing. Steph Shaw oversees accounts.

All three are former employees of The Martin Agency. Artz is a VCU Brandcenter graduate. Bajan is a graduate of The Creative Circus, and Shaw graduated from the University of Tennessee.

Read the full article on Richmond Times Dispatch.



How Devils Backbone Got the Blue Ridge Mountains Onto a Six Pack


SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

Anheuser-Busch acquired Devils Backbone in 2016.

Anheuser-Busch acquired Devils Backbone in 2016.

Joel Artz (l.), co-founder of Okay Yellow Design Lab, and Dustin Artz, creative director at Familiar Creatures

Joel Artz (l.), co-founder of Okay Yellow Design Lab, and Dustin Artz, creative director at Familiar Creatures


During the golden age of travel—before the internet, even before television—Americans who saved up their dollars would wander into a travel office and be dazzled by the color lithographs on the wall: travel posters of romantic and exotic destinations, rendered in a gauzy, dreamlike state so alluring you wanted to step inside. For shipping lines and railroads hoping to lure customers, the posters were the most effective marketing of their era.

All of that pretty much ended with WWII, but the dreamy aesthetic of the travel poster still possesses its power to draw consumers’ attention—and now, that power is being harnessed by an unlikely company: Anheuser-Busch.

Not Budweiser, though. In 2016, A-B acquired a craft brew called Devils Backbone, which enjoyed a loyal following in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Now, two years after that purchase, and 10 years after Devils Backbone first poured from the tanks, the brand has just debuted a new visual identity inspired by travel posters of yore. In this case, the “destination” is Nelson County, a lush and misty tract of 474 square miles in central Virginia crowned by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the northwest. The county isn’t just the home of the brewery, it’s central to the beer’s history and, hence, a fitting theme for the packaging.

“Until about six months ago, you could barely make a cellphone call here, so it very much feels like a destination—that sense of being able to get away from it all, or celebrating slow moments,” said Devils Backbone marketing director Marisa Black. “We wanted to do that on the pack. Not a ton of people know how gorgeous the area is.”

Developed by design shop Okay Yellow with a creative assist from Familiar Creatures, the new packaging features romantic settings that correspond to the multiple varieties the brand sells—an eruption of fall foliage for Gold Leaf Golden Lager, an underwater aquamarine tableau for Striped Bass Pale Ale, and so on. The bottle caps match the predominating colors of the labels and bottle carriers. Each scene evokes the Blue Ridge section of the Appalachian Mountains chain, which is so central to the brand’s identity.

Read the full article on Adweek.