By Steffi S. Lee ’16
If Jason Alley ’99 were developing an advertising campaign for Simpson College, what aspect of campus life would he promote?
“I think Simpson was big on community before it became some marketing buzzword,” he said.
As an advertising guru himself, Alley would know. He currently serves as the principal and head of creative development for Message, a marketing and communications firm based in Rapid City, S.D.
Alley recently helped lead Message to become Rapid City’s first advertising agency to ever win a National Gold ADDY award at the 2013 American Advertising Awards competition.
Message created a video on behalf of Black Hills Ammunition, a company that supplies specialty ammunition. It also received a Silver ADDY in the Sales Promotion-Sales Kit category for its 4 Year Survival Kit for Black Hills Ammunition.
It’s not an easy feat. With nearly 60,000 entries, The American Advertising Awards is the advertising industry’s most prestigious competition. Winning advertisers at the competition included worldwide advertising agencies, such as BBDO NYC, Leo Burnett Chicago and Ogilvy & Mather Atlanta.
“They’ve got budgets for their video crew that are much bigger than what we won an ADDY for,” he said.
But the hardest workers reap the most benefits. Growing up in Allerton, Iowa, which is a town of 501 people, and attending Simpson instilled in him a solid work ethic, Alley said.
“Come from a small place and you can still make it out in the big world,” he said.
Message may not have the budget or staff of a worldwide agency, he said, but it’ll always outwork everyone else.
Alley credits much of his success to Simpson’s professors, opportunities and liberal arts foundation. As a graphic design major with an emphasis in marketing, he studied under former professor Dr. Janet Heinicke.
“Coming from a small town, a rural town in Iowa, we didn’t really have that connection to the arts as readily as other people did,” he said.
Simpson gave Alley a chance to overcome that.
He said he gained a worldwide perspective through a May Term trip to New Zealand. More importantly, he also learned how to be innovative. His time at Simpson was during a digital revolution in which graphic design was starting to flourish.
“Dr. Heinicke recognized that and really pushed us through that,” Alley said. “She made it known that if you work hard and explore and keep an open mind, there’s so much inspiration out there.”
Alley said his liberal arts education from Simpson inspires his advertising career and reminds him how the beauty of communication encompasses everything.
“(Advertising) is so holistic. It’s not just design, it’s not just video, it’s not just writing. It’s everything,” he said. “It’s the English language, it’s philosophy, it’s psychology.”
His work ethic made him involved and outside the classroom. Alley played football for Simpson and also held an internship with Essman Associates in Des Moines.
Although he’s a national award winner, Alley doesn’t forget his roots. Community matters to him. He remembers Simpson’s sense of community through events such as Campus Day. He sees his advertising work as a way to give back to the community.
“Advertising is hand crafted,” he said. “It’s hands-on. It’s more about authenticity, truth and the voice versus the special effects and high dollar . We believe that advertising should be truthful, it should be beautiful and it should be about a story.”