MEET OUR TEAM
Daniel H. Nelson, Jr.
President & CEO. Ring Leader. Lover Of Life.
Just about everyone calls him Nelie, but no one calls him lethargic. Always on the go, both professionally and personally, Nelie’s long list of career achievements is only rivaled by his litany of hobbies and activities. A graduate of Stanford University and a Bay Area resident during the Internet’s infancy, Nelie has always had a knowledge and passion for digital communications and technologies. But his professional interests and experience run the entire marketing gamut. From commercial photography, creative direction and account management to planning, strategy development and brand consulting, Nelie has immersed himself in just about every industry pool you can think of. After more than 20 years in the business, Nelie purchased Nelson Schmidt Inc. from his father, Dan Nelson Sr. (or just “Senior” if you see him in the hallway) in 2012, and has continued to propel our agency on an upward trajectory ever since. After wearing all those hats, you’d think Nelie might spend his rare free time catching up on a little rest. But when he’s not burning the business end of the candle, he’s living life to the fullest, hunting, fishing, boating, diving, skiing, golfing or volunteering as a rescue diver for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Nelie is also an active leader in the community, serving as chairman of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee’s Maritime Committee, which produces the free LIVE @ the Lakefront summer concert series in the Rotary Amphitheater at Discovery World.
Chief Operating Officer. Proficient Angler. Red Wine Admirer.
Cody takes a sensible, almost poetic approach when it comes to ensuring quality and profitability within the agency. Let’s put it this way, if Nelson Schmidt were a winery, Cody would be both the grapes and the vintner. His favorite thing about NS, you ask? The people – “Gotta love the people you work with or it’s not worth working.” Cody is also a big advocate of getting everyone on board when it comes to the creative process by exploring multiple insights that go deep below the surface–to get the big idea, not just the first idea. When the working hours come to a close, Cody likes to get out on the water or into the woods. Whether he’s fishing, hunting or enjoying a little soft rock from back in the day (Insert Ambrosia song here) he’s always keeping his eyes open to welcome new, diverse principles. Basically, He’s “never holdin’ on to yesterday.” (Okay, you really have to look up Ambrosia now).
Chief Creative Officer. Advertising Geek. Bike Fanatic.
Mike often says, “Creativity is the most powerful weapon in business today.” So he uses his role as Chief Creative Officer to spread the love and importance of creativity across the entire agency and with its clients. He’s also a self-described advertising industry geek, always on the lookout for the newest thinking, latest technology, and any other differential advantage he can bring to the agency’s work. Mike’s a bit obsessed with his work (you’ll usually see him in the office by 6:30 a.m.), but he does try to get away from it all and clear his mind with another obsession: bikes. He’s into gravel, mountain, and fat biking. But his all-time favorite way to unwind is to get in the woods camping with his wife and two dogs. Oh yeah, and if you get Mike talking about BBQ ribs, you won’t be able to shut him up.
Human Resources Director. Dog Lover. NS Lifer.
Mrs. Lynne Chamberlain is Nelson Schmidt elite. She’s been walking through these agency doors for over 30 years (she was hired when she was 8). Lynne is a fan of the many different personalities here at NS, and that’s a good thing–seeing she’s head of HR and all. She is responsible for planning, directing and coordinating the administration functions within the organization. Lynne is always upbeat and in good spirits. Her life philosophy speaks to her magnetic spirit: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more–you are a leader.” When Lynne switches off ‘work-mode’ and turns on ‘fun-mode’, she and her husband like to hop on their Harley and take off up north to hang out at their cottage with beloved family members. And if Lynne is having quiet time (aka if no one else is around), she’ll enjoy her favorite dish (Pasta Bolognese) while watching her favorite reality show. Now, she won’t tell us which show, so we’ll just have to assume it includes dogs, roses, challenges and boozy drama. Wait. Isn’t that every reality show?
IT Director. Whisky Taster. Bitcoin Trader.
Spencer is the agency “tech guy.” For those that don’t speak tech, we’ll have Spencer explain what he does in his own words. “If it plugs into a wall, I manage it.” Well said, Spencer. When he isn’t dealing with agency tech issues or babysitting his non-tech savvy coworkers, Spencer enjoys building electronics and eating chicken paprikash and mint chocolate-chip ice cream. Wouldn’t it be cool if he took his love of electronics and built a robot that could make both mint chocolate-chip ice cream and that Hungarian chicken dish? If the robot could also distill whiskey, we’re sure Spence would have a new best friend.
Senior Project Manager. DIYer. Warm Weather Dreamer.
Melissa’s career philosophy is simple—work hard and be nice to people—but her day-to-day mantra is even simpler: Keep it moving. As a project manager, it’s Melissa’s job to make sure nothing gets missed and our team has the time we need to produce high-quality work, on-time and on-budget.
She loves to find new, unique ways for clients to solve their marketing challenges. It was this creative problem-solving itch that drew her into marketing, and then project management, in the first place.
If she weren’t in marketing, Melissa says she’d be using those creative problem-solving skills to renovate and flip houses. She’s a lifelong Wisconsinite, but if Nelson Schmidt ever opens a Florida office, she’ll be the first to ditch her snow boots for flip-flops. But she’ll never ditch the Badgers and the Bucks.
Digital Developer. Creative Coder. Flat-White Espresso Aficionado
Zach is one of those guys who dreams in ones and zeros. As a devote of all things digital, he puts his deep understanding of Full-Stack Development to work solving complicated client commerce concerns with his capacity for creating incomparable code. When explaining what he does, Zach puts it this way:
“I focus on finding solutions that are code-efficient and contribute to the quality of the objective. Software development challenges what it means to be creative and pushes innovation through logical expression.”
Outside of the office, Zach likes to, well, get out. He believes traveling and new experiences are great ways to expand his horizons.
“I have had the opportunity to snowboard in the mountains of Kitzbühel, Austria and explore the terrain of Colorado. You have to be willing to face the un-known. Stepping outside my daily routine is a great way to re-focus and inspires me to be creative. Of course, a flat-white espresso doesn’t hurt either.”
Office Administrator. Carbonation Wrangler. Liz Lemon Lover.
As an Office Administrator, Aidan is in charge of lots of important things that keep our Madison office running, from assisting teams with projects to billing. But her most crucial task just might be keeping the fridge stocked for the entire Madison team’s unusual and insatiable thirst for La Croix. Who knew it was possible for people to drink that much flavored sparkling water? To Aidan, being creative is all about making order out of chaos. Which is fitting, seeing she has a hyphenated first name, Aidan-Bailey, rather than bothering with the chaos of a middle name. Outside of work, Aidan is a non-discriminating TV aficionado (yes, even reality TV), with a life philosophy best represented in a quote from Liz Lemon, “Yes to love, yes to life, yes to staying in more.”
Writer. Knitter. Possible vampire.
Erin comes to us with a wealth of writing experience. She also has a background in qualitative and quantitative research, which means she’s an expert at gathering, selecting and writing content with laser precision. This combination makes Erin a very special content specialist.
Mark Twain’s adage summarizes Erin’s writing philosophy: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ‘Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Outside of the office, Erin is an award-winning knitter. She won a 2ndplace ribbon at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2018 and has her eye set on a blue-ribbon prize in 2019. Erin also loves to travel all over the world, but she doesn’t go for typical tourist traps. One of her favorite vacations was to Transylvania, which raises a lot of vampire-based inquiries.
Account Planning & Management Director. Baker. Cheesecake Maker.
As an account director, Becky builds harmonious relationships with NS clients. When she’s not leading her team, Becky enjoys getting outdoors and participating in summer activities. When the winter season falls upon Wisconsin, she watches movies and bakes (quote, “cheesecakes are my specialty”). Her creative philosophy speaks to the creativity in all of us: “Good ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere–be open to explore ideas both independently and as a group.” If you want to get on Becky’s good side, load up a gift basket with red wine, sweatpants and lasagna. You’ll have a friend for life.
Office Administrator. Dog Lover. Former Yooper.
Allysa is the glue that keeps the agency together. As our Office Administrator, she calls herself our “go-to gal.” From accounting support to proofreading our final work, Allysa ensures that everything here runs smoothly. Though her job is busy, Allysa’s life philosophy is, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” To live up to that, Allysa, a transplant from Upper Michigan, loves to explore warm Milwaukee by taking her dog to different parks and enjoying our many festivals, shows and new restaurants. In winter months, you’ll find her vegged out on the couch watching old 80s and 90s comedies – recognize that quote from anywhere?
Account Supervisor. Dessert Devourer. Horse Rider.
Sarah is our Account Supervisor, meaning she’s an expert at finding creative solutions to business problems for successful results – creative being the key word. It doesn’t take much to activate Sarah’s creativity, her philosophy being, “Creativity is all around us. It can come from anybody and takes many different forms.” When Sarah isn’t thinking about creative solutions, you will likely find her practicing dressage or jumping fences (which we thought meant shopping and hurdles, but apparently has to do with horse training). Sarah also enjoys spending quality time with friends and family who know that a favor only costs four special words – Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée.
Group Creative Director. Teacher. Closet Chef.
From shooting short films in grade school to producing family vacation slideshows to writing songs for his high school band (rock on, Patterns), if a story needed to be told, Jeff was on it. Since discovering in college that one could actually create for a living, he has gone on to craft engaging stories and win awards for brands in banking, healthcare, insurance, motorsports, retail, tools, travel and probably more… but who’s counting. When it comes to guiding principles or a life philosophy, Jeff believes this: “Solve problems by any means necessary and use my powers to try and make the world a better place.” When not on the job, Jeff enjoys teaching young wannabe art directors and copywriters at a portfolio school of his own creation (with fellow Nelson Schmidter, Scott Lawson), speaking at colleges and participating in local ad club events. To unwind, he likes to chill with his wife, hang out with his dog and cook crazy meals… not necessarily in that order.
Julie Ferris-Tillman, Ph.D
Public Relations Director. Content Creator. Impressive Improvisationalist.
Julie describes her role as a builder of relationships. She creates connections between the press and clients, ideas and messages, strategies and tactics, and content and audiences. It’s a part of her character she’s carried into actually creating characters and making connections as an improv comedian. In fact, her philosophy on the job is quite similar to her theory about being on stage. She sums it up like this:
“You only win if your team does and every choice you make should be driven by curiosity, not comfort.”
Julie also teaches, blogs and is a pitbull advocate and owner. When asked why pitbulls? She replied, “They’re very misunderstood and make such sweet pets. Besides, I once played the wench, Generous Ginny Lightskirts at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, so I’m no stranger to puppy love.”
Marketing Director. Awarded Actor. BBQ Eater.
If you walk by Jason’s office, you might hear the echoes of “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA–admittedly one of Jason’s guilty pleasures. Jason likes getting in the mix here at NS. The flexibility within the agency doesn’t keep Jason tied down to his desk and collaborating with the team helps him produce timelines and budgets for concepts crafted by the folks in the creative department. Which brings us to his creative philosophy: “No matter what the budget or timeline anything’s possible” When Jason isn’t taming the production beast, you can find him with his family and attending their athletic extracurricular activities.
Videographer. Wearer of Many Hats. Badass.
Olivia comes to us with extensive experience in creating marketing videos and broadcast content for a wide variety of both domestic and international clientele. Her expertise lies in every area of production including conceptual development, budgeting, crew and talent acquisition, camera operation, editing and motion graphic animation. Whew, talk about a one woman wrecking crew. Perhaps that’s why when asked about her life philosophy, she characterized it as this: “The sun never sets on a badass.” When Olivia isn’t capturing and creating stories in moving picture form, she occasionally partakes in her guilty pleasures of chicken and waffles, and chocolate and wine. Not all at the same time, mind you. But if she did? Now that would be badass.
Media Manager. Passionate Gardner. Popcorn Popper.
Owning the title ‘Media Manager’ at Nelson Schmidt means Maria must be both focused and resourceful when negotiating media buys. What keeps her stoked at work? That’s easy. Maria appreciates having the ability to be flexible with her schedule and working with a solid group of advertising individuals. Maria is an easy-going spirit who enjoys life–one day at a time. When Maria pushes her media mind aside, she’s likely to ice up a couple of Coors Lights, grab her fishing pole and get outdoors. And when it’s time to relax, you might find Maria chillin’ in front of the television and coaxing her husband to prepare his ‘famous’ grilled chicken. I mean, c’mon. You can’t watch The Bachelorette on an empty stomach now, can you?
Designer. Evader of Routines. Beer Baroness.
From banner ads and app interfaces to exhibits and brand identities, Sarah is a designer who does it all. She pulls her design inspiration from the world around her, always switching up her daily routines to be influenced by new surroundings. Sarah likes to say, “life’s about balance.” And she lives up to it. She loves watching horror movies, hiking with her dog and listening to movie scores at full volume. Sarah also loves beer. Like really loves beer. She drinks beer, has her own homebrew brand and is on the Board of Directors for New Barons Brewing – Wisconsin’s first cooperatively owned brewery.
Director of Media Services. Passionate Reader. Animal Lover.
As the leader of integrated media strategy, planning, buying and optimization at the agency, Laura is always asking, “what if we could?” Nothing stops her from reaching an audience in the most impactful way possible. The Effie on her shelf is proof of that tenacity. So is her favorite quote from Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win or learn.” Away from work, Laura is a hockey mom and animal rescuer. With a home filled with chinchillas, bunnies, a bird, a snake and bearded dragons, it’s no wonder her other passion is Pinot Noir.
Media Strategist. Exercise Aficionado. Tone Deaf Singer.
As a Media Strategist, a typical day for Ted is never typical. He could be creating a media strategy, digging into data, or deploying a digital campaign. Which suits him just fine. Because Ted is an explorer in his personal life, too – always venturing into new areas of Milwaukee to discover an interesting shop, restaurant, or park. Followed by another Milwaukee favorite – an ice-cold Miller Lite. When it comes to creativity, Ted says, “The sky is many shades of blue. There are many unique ways we each view the world and creativity is fostered by fresh and different perspectives.” Those deep, creative thoughts often come to Ted after running 5ks, 10ks, and half marathons (and hopefully soon a full 26.2). The only time you’ll see Ted idle is when he’s practicing his guilty pleasure of singing along to the radio. But his zero musical talent means you’ll be needing that ice-cold Miller Lite.
User Experience Design Director. World Traveler. Lifelong Learner.
As our User Experience Design Director, Sabrina is basically master of the web. User experience, graphic design, web development, search marketing strategy – she does it all. Even as a master, Sabrina still strives to learn more. Her creative philosophy is, “Never assume that you know everything, you never will, so keep learning.” When Sabrina isn’t learning the latest tricks of the trade, she’s probably on a trip. She’s visited 24 countries so far and still has others to check off her bucket list. Her favorite? Well, you’ll have to ask for yourself.
Graphic Designer. Soccer Player. Pig Admirer.
When Robert isn’t telling us about the many different eyebrow rings he wore before his marriage, he’s combing typography and images that create custom designs for our clients. Robert appreciates the collaborative atmosphere at NS, it helps get him in a zone that dares him to constantly push boundaries. It speaks to his life philosophy: “I’ll try anything once.” Really, Robert? Anything? This should make for some fun times on the second floor. When Robert isn’t making pretty pictures at NS, he spends time with his wife and three lovely daughters, taking stunning photos and drinking craft beers.
Group Creative Director. Indian Food Partaker. Board Skater.
If you get a chance, sit down and buy Clay a Ketel One (with soda, twist of lemon) and dive into his many passions, one of which is playing tunes. He’s an accomplished musician who has toured and recorded with many national acts. He plays in a killer band that performs locally. Steely Dane is a respected tribute band that spills the smooth grooves. This is probably what inspires Clay’s life philosophy: “Make a life, not a living.” We got deep and asked Clay what helped him get in a creative mindset, he answered quickly, “Contemplate one thing of beauty every day”–and then we added–“then you go back, Jack, do it again.”
Daniel H. Nelson
Chairman. Legend. Oenophile.
Senior, as he’s called around campus, is the former owner of Nelson Schmidt and current owner of legendary status in the world of advertising. At the height of his long and distinguished career in marketing, Senior purchased Nelson Schmidt (formerly the Ken Schmidt Company) in 1988. Throughout the next quarter century, he built the agency into a premier B2B powerhouse. After selling NS to his son in 2012, Senior continues to collaborate with the management team as chairman, helping develop and nurture growth opportunities for both agency and clients. And if you ever want to hear his gripping tales of advertising’s good ol’ days, the key to Senior’s story vault can be found inside a bottle of fine red wine. As a connoisseur, he’ll probably be able to tell you a few stories about the vino as well.
Senior Account Executive. Traveler. Ballet Dancer.
If you see Kim bebopping around the agency, odds are she’s going to have a smile on her face, a cup of coffee in her hand and some random 90’s R&B tune playing smoothly in her head. And that’s No Diggity (see what we did there?). With Kim being the liaison between client and creative, her work philosophy speaks well to the elements of her job: “It’s important to strive to find the why in whatever you’re doing and stand for something.” When Kim isn’t exploring the mindsets of NS clients, she’s outside–camping, hiking and enjoying apples and peanut butter in the comfort of nature.
Digital Media Manager. Content Creator. Hero of Home Teams.
Jared joins us from the legendary clothing company, Legendary Whitetails where he was responsible for multi-million dollar digital advertising initiatives. In his role at Nelson Schmidt, Jared will put his digital expertise to work meeting the differing goals of a wide variety of clients. When asked how he hopes to accomplish his goals, Jared offered this: “Problem-solving as a group brings more ideas and different perspectives. Good ideas can come from the most unassuming places, so it’s best to keep an open mind.” When not developing digital media solutions, he likes to spend time with his wife and kids as well as watching the Badgers, Brewers, Bucks and Packers. Go Wisconsin!
Controller. Food Enjoyer. Money Cruncher.
Cristy has probably the most noted job here at Nelson Schmidt. She’s in charge of everything financial within the agency. Expenses. Profits. Wait. That means our paychecks, too. Did I mention Cristy is very charming? She appreciates the many different personalities that make up Nelson Schmidt, which can speak to her creative philosophy: “Keep it balanced.” When Cristy is not taking care of the agency numbers, she enjoys eating a lot of food and spending time with her family.
Account Supervisor. Strategizer. Monotony Avoidance Aficionado.
Jeanne describes her job to be a partner to her clients and a collaborator with her colleagues. She believes clients come to us in need of solutions, plans and strategy and she rallies teams to work together to make that happen. When asked what drives her to do what she does, she had this to say:
“My philosophy is to keep learning. This industry is constantly changing so you have to keep up or it will pass you by. I also love the fact that there’s no monotony. Every day is different with new challenges in need of solutions.”
When not at work, Jeanne enjoys spending time with her husband and kids who are currently at the age where they repeat random adult phrases.
“If they happen to swear and use it in the right context, I’m guaranteed to laugh to the point of tears.”
At home or on the job, there’s certainly nothing monotonous for Jeanne.
Courtney Vander Veen Mich
PR Account Exec. Record Collector. Connector.
Courtney has learned over her years in PR that every client has a story to tell. It’s her job to find that story, to find the right people to amplify it, and connect the two. She tries to learn something new every day, even if that means learning from her mistakes. There’s value there, just as even the worst idea during a brainstorming session can light a spark that illuminates a creative path forward. In addition to being a collector of ideas, she’s a collector of books, vinyl records and unusual food experiences. Food like grasshopper tacos, Marmite, lengua and tripe. She does not recommend trying Marmite twice.
Production Director. Idea Transformer. Grammy Guest Guy.
For those who aren’t familiar with what someone in production does, it’s pretty simple… They get S%#T done. And when it comes to getting S%#T done, Dan’s the best.
From concept through completion, Dan manages every part of the process. Whether it’s finding directors and photographers, casting talent, assembling crews, scheduling shoots, managing edits or making sure the right files get to the right media, he does it all. On time, on budget and always with his eye on keeping clients happy. Dan puts his passion for production this way:
“I love to transform creative ideas into tangible deliverables and seeing the final project completed. Especially when I consider all the work that went into it.”
Outside of work Dan has had the unique pleasure of being an escort at the Grammy’s. For the main live event he helps performers before they hit the stage and then guides winners to meet the media afterwards.
“Sammy Hagar once jumped on my back. So I ended up carrying him to the photo op.”
Now that’s getting S%#T done.
Senior Project Manager. Coaxer of Creativity. Highway 61 Revisitor.
As a project manager, Sarah gets to tell people what to do and when it’s due. But she’s not only process-driven. Sarah also always pushes teams to think more creatively by taking the stance of a 3-year-old and asking, “why?” And to keep the work moving at the agency, she stays inspired by her favorite words from Bob Dylan, “The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on.” Keeping on going to Dylan concerts is also one of Sarah’s favorite things to do. She’s been to more than 30 so far.