Team

We are a collection of entrepreneurial-minded, independent and passionate professionals that rally around the ideal, “answer only to our clients and ourselves”.

Below is a sampling of the men and women who steer the ship. Our leaders, mentors and sources of inspiration.


Daniel H. Nelson Jr.

CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, 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.


Daniel H. Nelson Sr.

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.


Lynne Chamberlain

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?


Christopher Vitrano

Chief Marketing Officer. Art Collector. Fashionable Golfer.

Let’s meet Chris, who’s more than just our CMO, he’s the voice of Nelson Schmidt. Chris helps marketers have a good understanding of the professional attributes we provide at NS and how those attributes can enhance their unique marketing situation. Working with international brands is one of the many reasons Chris enjoys working at NS.

A little-known fact about “Vitch” (a new nickname we’re hoping to try out, fingers crossed he’ll acknowledge it), he’d like to meet Richard Branson because he thinks the conversation would never run its course. Nevertheless, Chris is a happily married man who enjoys running and actively participating in Milwaukee’s contemporary city life. And we’re guessing that means he and his wife enjoy going out at night to enjoy a small plate of carpaccio and a couple pours of Maker’s Mark. Ask Richard to join, Vitch­–we’re sure he’ll pick up the tab.


Spencer Allen

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.


Miranda Allison

Marketing Communications Coordinator. Pizza Appreciator. Cabernet Sipper.

Miranda helps keep the agency on the map through the many channels of the web. She steers potential clients over to NS and ultimately assists in creating new business. Miranda enjoys the flexibility of her job and the fact that those with less experience are just as respected as those with more experience. Her creative philosophy says it all:

“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your head and doubt yourself. Don’t do that. Just let go and think freely.”

When Miranda clocks out, she enjoys binging on Netflix, traveling and ‘wowing’ her associates with her many impersonations. Seriously. You want to hear an inebriated Arnold Schwarzenegger…her desk is on the third floor.


Jason Petersen

Creative Director. Boy Scout Supporter. Prized Elvis Impersonator.

As one of the fine, outstanding Creative Directors here at Nelson Schmidt, Jason helps lead the creative department in finding unique marketing solutions that will enrapture the NS client roster. When he needs a creative boost, he relies on his past experiences and an inspirational quote from Francis Atterbury (we had to look him up, too):

“It’s attention to detail that makes the difference between average and stunning.”

Once Jason puts aside his thinking cap for the day, he and his wife enjoy spending time with their two sons who are actively involved in the Boy Scouts. When Jason isn’t scouting, he’s likes discussing the science behind the perfect Swedish Meatball.


Robert Knuth

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.


Danielle Brockman

Copywriter. Animal Lover. Bee Sting Avoider.

Ask what Danielle does at NS, she’ll simply answer, “I write things.” Well said, Danielle–it’s organic, yet to the point. She enjoys the independence NS offers its creatives. When she needs to get into a creative mindset, Danielle likes to switch up environments and her music selection. She adheres to a proper creative philosophy:

“Take notes. Every little idea can lead to something greater.”

Spoken like a true writer. After Danielle turns off her office light, she enjoys her two dogs and two cats, traveling and pouring a Captain and Coke while thinking of creative ways to combine her two favorite foods–pizza and mashed potatoes.


Scott Lawson

Creative Director. Outdoor Reveler. Mountain Dew Quaffer.

Scott, AKA ‘The Candy Man’, is known to lead the other creatives in developing engaging and visually stunning storytelling pieces. He’s also been known to deal out sweets to fellow sugar-addicted co-workers. So, yeah…he’s popular here. Scott uses his surroundings to get the creative boost he needs. Music. Movies. Life. It all complements his personal philosophy:

“Man is defined by what he does when he thinks nobody is watching.”

When Scott isn’t giving creative direction to the other ad savants, he gets lost in bad B movies and video games. He also appreciates the outdoors. His poetic adventures allow him to take spectacular photos. No lie. His Instagram is on point.


Cody Pearce

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).


Kurt Schultz

Account Supervisor. Long-Distance Runner. Secret Candy Connoisseur.

When Kurt isn’t showing off his mantastic running shorts during lunch, he’s brilliantly connecting our clients to the astute departments of Nelson Schmidt. Kurt likes collaborating with the teams at NS, which helps him think creatively and happens to work quite well with his agency philosophy:

“The more minds the better.”

Simple but effective. Outside of agency life, you’ll find Kurt hanging with his two boys, consuming craft beer, noshing on jambalaya and attending concerts–we’re guessing in that order, too.


Becky Davidson

Account 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.


Scott Penniston

VP Media Services. Outdoor Wanderer. Sushi Destroyer.

On any typical Friday, you’ll find Scott cruising the agency wearing a craft beer branded work shirt and a pair of old school high top Vans. Our VP of Media Services appreciates blending creative and media strategies and working with many different personalities here at NS. Scott is a man who enjoys challenging convention…and music (based on his life philosophy):

“If they attack the car, save the radio.”

When Scott shuts down his computer for the day, he’s known to grab a bottle of Black Husky Milk Stout, maybe a handful of Jelly Belly’s and dive into some collegiate football action. Go Badgers. If you happen to run into Scott, be sure to ask him about the time he almost made it to the Little League World Series. Only missed it by one game.


Clay Konnor

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 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, “Discover one thing of beauty every day”–and then we added–“then you go back, Jack, do it again.”


Abby Vogt

Office Administrator. Shopping Advocator. Money Waster.

As an Office Administrator, Abby is known to wear many different hats at the agency. And if you asked her, she would tell you that’s a good thing. She’s taken an interest in learning more about the marketing business and the role advertising plays in the promotion of goods and/or services. Her passion for her work speaks to her life philosophy:

“Live life to the fullest.”

When Abby punches out for the day, she enjoys sipping coffee, eating pizza and planning her adventure in becoming a permanent resident of Costa Rica. Wait. Come to think of it. Should Nelson Schmidt open a Central American satellite office?


Karen Jorgenson

Office Manager. The Queen of It All. Period.

If Nelson Schmidt had royalty, Karen would be the Queen. She does a little bit of everything in a very big way. She’s probably already found a typo in this sentanence. When she’s not holding court at NS, she enjoys reading and hanging out with family. Her creative philosophy:

“Like people, creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. You just gotta find yours, tap it and let it take you away.”

Fun fact about the queen–As a Chuck E. Cheese employee back in the day, she wore the rat costume to make money.


Michael Spredemann

Digital Developer. Scuba Diver. Beer Explorer.

Michael does what most people can’t–and that’s talk fluent computer. In other words, he’s our resident computer architect. When our clients need ‘web work’ done right, M. Spredemann is the guy. When being a ‘code monkey’ gets a little hectic, Michael likes to step away from his computer and recall the time he fought the American Gladiator champion…and won.

When Michael isn’t working with one of the many teams he supports at NS, he enjoys devouring sushi plates and hanging out with wizards, elves and druids. Yes, one of his guilty pleasures is playing Dungeons and Dragons. We just think the dice are really cool.


Nick Bankhead

Senior Copywriter. Saved by the Bell Watcher. Senior Breakdancer.

As the senior word guy at the agency, Nick appreciates the relaxed work environment at Nelson Schmidt because “it really calms my unruly ADHD.” When he makes an accidental turn on the writer’s block, Nick sneaks off to an empty room to drink Pabst N/A and watch movies that star Amanda Bynes.

When Nick leaves the office for the day, he enjoys the angelic, sultry voice of Michael McDonald–an American singer, songwriter, keyboardist and record producer. McDonald has worked with many reputable artists including Steely Dan, Van Halen, Aretha Franklin and Toto–but his best work was with the Doobie Brothers (1976-1982). Oh, and Nick actively supports animal welfare.


Kimberly Panagis

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.


Alan Herrera

Digital Marketing Strategist. Gym Enthusiast. Tropical Restaurateur.

He’s more than just the Google Ads guy here at Nelson Schmidt. Alan is a Digital Marketing Strategist who enjoys hiking and being outdoors with his dog Bambino. His creative philosophy is simple:

“Adapt or get left behind. Learn new skill sets and stay current within the world of technology. In short, never stop learning.”

Little known fact about Mr. Herrera–not only is he a top-notch digital marketer, he’s also part-owner of a successful local bar and grill that has a Caribbean twist. How do we know this? We Googled it.


Jela Trask

Account Management and Planning Director. Go-Getter. Aspiring Chocolatier.

Jela has an aspirational undertaking when she walks through the doors of NS. She enthusiastically shares our value to our current roster of clients and to share the good we do for their businesses. Jela enjoys the people and the flexibility at Nelson Schmidt. When it comes to helping her think creatively, she likes bouncing around ideas with people in the office.

Something interesting about Jela, she was born in a village with no running water. Crazy. And there are people here who flip out if the Wi-Fi goes down for more than 60 seconds. After Jela ends her day, she enjoys spending time with her family, working out and a good plate of red beans and rice with a glass of red, red wine.


Jason Gantner

Production Manager. 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.


Cristy Schuenke

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.


Samantha Cusick

PR Account Executive. Devoted Hiker. Cabin Dweller.

Sure, her high school mascot was a pony, but there’s much more to Samantha, or as we call her, Sam. She’s like a jack of all trades here at NS. Sam writes, does research and dabbles in the world of social media. We assume that means researching funny memes all day. When speaking about life, Sam thinks to the fish we all know and love:

“Just keep swimming.” ~ Dory

Sam loves coffee–not only is it her beverage of choice, it’s what she needs to help her think creatively. When she’s out of the 9-5 realm, Sam likes being outdoors, eating Pad Thai and listening to bad 90’s music. So, anything by Sugar Ray. Got it.


Maria Halverson

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?


Eric Krueger

Graphic Designer. Hiker. High Octane Beer Drinker.

Eric digs working with the many different clients of NS because there’s always something new and it keeps him on his creative toes. One of the coolest things about Eric (besides his wonderful, natural citrus scent) is the record label he runs. They embrace cassette tapes to promote national and international acts (“mostly werido, small stuff” –in his own words).

When he’s not in design mode at the agency or vibing over his record label, you’ll find Eric with his wife and their son…and if he happens to find a little more time in his already busy schedule, he enjoys camping and getting out in nature.


Michele Essma

Senior Account Executive. Thumb Contortionist. Reality TV Specialist.

Michele’s job is about collaboration as she works with both the client and the creative team. She joins forces with NS clients to define strategy, objectives and messaging so the creative folk can execute communication pieces that speak to the clients’ consumers. When Michele needs that creative push, she likes to brainstorm with the people around the agency.

“No idea is a bad idea. Get it all out there.”

Outside of the NS walls, Michele enjoys spending time with family across Wisconsin and Minnesota. If you plan on having her over dinner, serve Thai peanut chicken salad with mint herbal tea–your Yelp review will be stellar.


Chris Chuzles

Senior Interactive Designer. Hot Sauce Hoarder. Billy Mays Collector.

Some say if Frank Zappa and Doug Henning had a baby, it would be Chris (aka Chuz). As the Senior Interactive Designer, Chuz is known to conceptualize, design and build interactive projects for NS clients–this includes websites and animated videos. Let’s jump to his current infatuation with hot dogs–when asked about it, Chuz quotes an old English adage:

“This, too, shall pass.”

When Chuz isn’t doing computer nerd stuff, he yells a lot of punk music into a microphone with his band. He’ll also throw back a few PBR’s with you and discuss his childhood dream of growing up to become Schneider from One Day at a Time. Never give up, Chuz. Never give up.