Jason Alley ’99: Making History in South Dakota

By Steffi S. Lee ’16

Jason Alley ’99 may have small-town roots, but he has won a big-time award.

And he made history in the process.

Alley is the principal and head of creative development for Message, a marketing and communications firm based in Rapid City, S.D. He’s the state’s first advertiser to ever win a National Gold ADDY award. Message is also the first Rapid City advertising agency to ever win this award.

The American Advertising Awards is an annual worldwide advertising competition recognizing creativity and excellence in advertising. With nearly 50,000 entries annually, it’s the only competition to have three levels of competition.

American Advertising Federation member clubs first judge local entries. The winners then advance to 15 district competitions. The next step is the national finals. Message won seven silver ADDY awards at the American Arts Festival – District 8 Regional competition.

Message’s ADDY submission was a video created for Black Hills Ammunition through an integrated marketing campaign called, “It Started With Our Hands.”

Black Hills Ammunition supplies 5.56 ammunition for the United States Military’s Service Rifle Teams and provide PROVIDES specialty ammunition for specific military operations.

“The Black Hills Ammo brand is something that’s built by humans everyday,” Alley said. “They have that care, that attention to detail. They really believe that hands are the important thing behind the product.”

And after realizing the power of handmade creations, Message compared the value of a hand-produced ammunition with ammunition produced by a machine.

“Most of their competitors are so big skilled that they do things with machines,” he said. “The humans aren’t as actively involved. Most people view that as a weakness, but we view that as a strength.”

The two-minute video showcases the most intricate details to capture the essence of Black Hills Ammunition – creases in the creators’ hands and the slow machinery. Message took a creative twist in producing the advertisement.

“We typically shoot the catalog and the photography first, and we decided to go all film,” Alley said. “We thought digital was not really part of that process anymore.”

Alley and a photographer wanted to connect filmography with the authentic process of Black Hills Ammunition. They used microscopic lenses to capture every detail.

“We wanted to show every wrinkle, HOW it’s a huge part of what Black Hills Ammunition does,” he said.

Advertising Black Hills Ammunition didn’t require anything glamorous, he said. Although a small agency, Message joined worldwide agencies such as Leo Burnett Chicago, Goodby Silverstein & Partners and BBDO NYC in winning ADDY awards.
“We just believe advertising should be truthful, should be beautiful, it should be about story,” he said.

Alley and Message’s storytelling for Black Hills Ammunition now gives him a story to tell – about how a small town upbringing can lead to big rewards.

Message also won a Silver ADDY for its 4 Year Survival Kit created for Black Hills Ammunition under the Sales Promotion-Sales Kit category.

Alley says Message’s showing in the ADDY competition is a testament to hard work. He credits Iowa’s culture, and his Simpson Experience, for his success in the advertising industry.

“Growing up in a small town, we didn’t have that connection to the arts as readily as others did, but the one thing we did have growing up there was that work ethic,” he said. “That’s really important in the advertising business.”

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