We're always proud to share the advancements and new additions to our growing team, but this month we promoted two of our most esteemed colleagues and took some time to sit down with them to learn more about them and their roles, and what's in store for the future of SimpScar.
But we want to start by introducing the newest member of the SimpScar team, Brendon Reyell! Brendon Reyell (he/him/his) is our new Senior Web Developer. Brendon brings several years of experience in web development at other agencies and earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Clarkson University.
He'll work in our Creative & Digital division, helping to build websites and web experiences for our clients, but that resonate & feel intuitive to their target audiences. Besides the work, he's excited to join SimpScar because of our agency culture & industry purpose. Brendon lives with his wife and is based in Torrance, CA.
New Promotions at SimpScar
Andrea Kruszka (she, her, hers)
Associate Vice President, Accounts
Associate Vice President, Marketing & Media Strategy
When did you join SimpScar and what brought you here?
Andrea: I had a friend who knew about SimpsonScarborough, and she told me they were looking for summer interns — I was working on my grad school thesis at the time and was interested in getting into market research. When I reached out, I was in the thick of writing and defending my thesis, but it was so much fun to start the internship because everything I was doing in grad school, I was now doing at SimpScar — only for actual clients.
Sara: I was at an independent media agency prior to joining SimpsonScarborough. I joined the team here at SimpScar excited to dedicate my time to the higher education vertical while building out the media service offering. The opportunity is one that provides me the ability to work in a vertical that I care about while adding to SimpsonScarborough's services so we can better serve our partners.
Editor's Note: Sara's tenure at SimpScar got off to an ominous start as she began during "the week" in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. She had flown down to our former HQ in Old Town, Alexandria VA, but when we closed our offices mid-week and sent everyone home, Sara was left scrambling to find an earlier flight back to her home in New York. Despite the onboarding week from hell, she stuck with us and we're lucky to have her on our team.
What should we know about your respective divisions? What's new or on the horizon?
Andrea: We know that so much of the industry has been stretched so thin the past few years, so we've positioned ourselves to go deeper with our clients and be truly long-term strategic partners. We've actually been working towards that goal for a while now, building out our new divisions across the agency and producing more strategic, integrated deliverables.
What's remarkable is to see how that's affected our own teams internally — we're more integrated & collaborative across our agency now. Like how our strategy and digital teams work together, or media and research, accounts & operations (the list goes on) so that we can continue to move our clients forward. Our goal is for our clients to feel like we're an extension of their team, where we know the institution so well and can simultaneously bring new strategic insight & be in the weeds on all their brand and marketing needs. It's such an exciting time right now!
Sara: At its core, SimpsonScarborough is a data-driven branding agency. We dedicate our time and resources to being great partners, always thinking about the best long-term strategies, and serving as a resource for information, guidance, or perspective for the teams and people that we work with. Our media service offering, paired with our size and structure, allows us to be agile, working across teams to deliver thoughtful concepts, campaigns, or recommendations. From a marketing and media perspective, we're agnostic with our service partners meaning our clients have access to multiple tools in our tech stack and we have multiple vendors to work within campaign execution.
2022 is a really exciting time for our marketing & media services because these service offerings ensure that we're positioned to be long-term, strategic partners for our clients. Specifically, we're building out our bench of experts & evolving our existing services. As an integrated agency, the lines between our divisions have blurred so much they're starting to feel non-existent. That's so important in an integrated agency — it makes us smarter, more agile, and more collaborative. It's what we preach to our clients, and it's what we try and practice as well.
What do you wish more people understood about higher ed marketing?
Andrea: I wish every college president understood that higher education marketing is a continuous investment. To move the needle and change perceptions, you must continuously invest significant resources to make a difference. There is so much vying for the attention of your target audiences; a one-time billboard strategy isn't going to cut it. And you have to work not only at the top of the marketing funnel but the entire funnel, and never take your foot off the pedal.
Sara: Media has endless potential when positioned as one element of a comprehensive strategy or marketing plan. A good media plan builds a connection between audiences and an institution in the right ways, at the right times. This is most effective when as many touchpoints as possible are built in alignment. The website, recruitment materials (print & digital), creative, and content all affect media's ability to perform. The more thoughtful and strategic we are upfront in how all of these connect and serve the right message to audiences, the more successful media will be in both the short & long term.
What's been one of the most rewarding projects you've worked on at SimpScar?
Andrea: I don't have just one project that has been the most rewarding because all projects are rewarding. Even after ten years, I am still constantly learning something new, working with different people, overcoming new challenges, or trying something new.
One project that stands out is the one that changed me the most. Our client was the University of New Brunswick not too long after I first joined SimpsonScarborough. Not only was it our largest brand research project at the time (I think?), but we had to learn an entirely different higher education system.
I remember going to UNB for the first time and being so nervous because everything was out of my comfort zone. We traveled to Canada ALWAYS in the dead of winter (seriously — never once did we go in the summer!), and we would travel between their two campuses uncovering what was similar and what was different between the two and how to develop a brand positioning.
In the end, we conducted over 30 focus groups, eight audience surveys and developed a brand platform and brand positioning. I'm really proud of that work because when I first started, all I kept thinking to myself was, "What am I doing? How am I going to get through this? What were they thinking trusting me with this project?"
In the end, it was a huge success that I'm very proud of still to this day.
Sara: This is a tough one for me. There are a handful of projects I've worked on during my time here that have made an impact on me. The project types that I'm the most passionate about are the ones that are fully integrated and allow our teams to collaborate deeply. They challenge us in the right ways and provide us the opportunity to think about things differently.
What's your favorite industry related-ish podcast/newsletter/book?
Andrea: I usually start work by reading the daily newsletters from Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle. I also enjoy the Higher Voltage Podcast. There are a lot of podcasts I try to listen to, but this is the one I almost never miss. Plus, my fellow account director, Kevin Tyler, is the host.
I enjoy reading Marketing Brew
, a daily email newsletter that offers insights into what's trending in marketing and advertising.
What's your favorite non-higher ed brand? Why?
Andrea: Oiselle — it's a Seattle-based women's running apparel brand. Not only do they make a great product, but I believe in what they stand for and their commitment to improving the sport for women athletes. If you see me out running, I am almost always wearing a piece of clothing by Oiselle.
Sara: People as brands have become more of an interest and fascination of mine. One of my favorites is Taylor Swift. Her pivot away from a traditional music label and her expansion into directing, production, apparel, etc, is a great example of a person taking control of their brand and feeling empowered to generate content on their own terms.
Editor's Note: Andrea's basically a superhero when it comes to her running ability. She's run a total of six marathons, including a sub 3-hour race 🤯 in Boston of all places. She'll be running the Boston Marathon again come April.
What's your favorite vacation spot? Or where do you want to go next?
Andrea: Hiking in the Grand Cayon. I love it so much; we got married there!
Sara: Currently, does my backyard count? When the time is right, I'd love to bring my family to Germany and Austria.
What famous person would you most like to meet?
Andrea: I don't have a good answer for this one!
Sara: There are a few people I'd love the opportunity to meet so it's hard to choose. Adam Grant, Tom Hanks, Taylor Swift, and Meryl Streep are a few.
In a parallel universe, what would you be doing instead of working at a higher ed brand & marketing agency?
Andrea: I would be the host of a talk show or a cooking show.
Sara: I would be a lawyer.
Sara & Andrea, sincere congratulations on your well-deserved promotions! Thanks for taking some time to allow all of us to get to know you and your divisions at SimpScar a little better.
It's been nearly two years since SimpScar first went fully remote, and we now have SimpScar team members in 20 different states around the country. If you're interested in joining a fully remote company working at the intersection of marketing & higher education, check out our careers page — we have seven open positions and more on the way!