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Aaron Seaman Erik Simpson Written by: Aaron Seaman
Issue: July 2014 | NSIDE Business
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The 'Ironman' blazes trails in digital creative marketing Photography by: Michael Giordano for styleGIO

The San Antonio Rock-N-Roll Marathon, held last November, served as a milestone in the lives of many first-time participants. Completing a full 26.2-mile marathon – or even a 13.1-mile half-marathon – takes dedication, stamina and an unyielding commitment to months of training.

Now, take that same 26.2-mile marathon, but add a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bicycle race, as well as a 17-hour time limit to complete all three events, and you have Erik Simpson’s idea of a race. Simpson is partner and creative director for esd & associates, San Antonio’s leading digital creative agency. He is also an accomplished triathlete who completed his first Ironman Competition in Florida this past year. The dedication and commitment it takes to complete one of the world’s most grueling tests of endurance is something Simpson incorporates in his professional life, as well. Long regarded as a San Antonio communications visionary, Simpson was among the first “traditional” advertisers to embrace the Internet as a core component of his company’s promotional strategy. In 1993, esd & associates jumped headfirst into full-service interactive and Internet design and production.

In fact, before Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, esd employed social media in its client-partner campaigns. One example Simpson is particularly fond of was a social marketing campaign to combat teen depression, whereby esd established an online presence where teens could communicate about their feelings and challenges. Interest in the site among San Antonio teens increased exponentially as the word was spread through radio, outdoor and other traditional media. Teens were able to communicate in a safe forum and find support through their peers.

“A huge part of our success is creating campaign synergy, combining in-your-face, traditional marketing with advanced digital marketing expertise,” Simpson explains. “Everyone from the 12-year-old down the block to the busiest professional has joined the online block party, using social media to navigate between the real world and the virtual world. Anyone can use social media to communicate a message; the trick is to use it effectively. Simpson and the rest of the esd team understand that digital communications flow beyond the computer and into phones, televisions and social initiatives. A company’s digital presence is critical since it is now the first place a person goes to gage interest in a company. It’s why Simpson and his team encourage businesses to ask the following about their own interactive presence:

Would I trust my site enough to purchase a product?

Is my website better than my competitors’ websites?

Would our social media communications change my opinion or inspire me to become a fan? Is my SEO generating appropriate search results? Being knowledgeable on how to combine technical solutions with traditional mediums differentiates esd from its competitors. Most important is its ability to provide a complete and cost-effective product that generates revenue for its client-partners. Given Simpson’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle – something essential for an Ironman competitor – it’s no surprise that some of esd’s biggest client-partners are in the health industry. The company has earned a solid reputation for effective marketing through its involvement with wellness and nutrition education, smoking cessation, drinking-and-driving prevention and public health awareness campaigns.

Some of esd’s valued client-partners include Methodist Healthcare System, San Antonio Sports, University Health System, Alzafar Shriners, Sea World and Gambrinus Brands (Shiner Beer). Another satisfied client-partner of esd’s is SAMMinistries, an interfaith ministry that serves as the largest service provider of direct care and shelter in San Antonio and the surrounding area. Navarra Williams, SAMMinistries’ president and CEO, credits Simpson and his team for leading a most successful marketing and public relations campaign.

“In addition to helping rebrand SAMMinistries, Erik and the esd team developed a very successful campaign for us based on a $250,000 matching gift,” Williams shares. “Matching campaigns are only successful if the funds come in to realize the full match, and through Erik’s efforts, we brought in more than double our original goal. Erik helped us develop new revenue opportunities, and our board and leadership were ecstatic.”

Gina Galaviz, the firm’s social media and PR director, sums up Simpson in one word: “driven.“ “Erik is one of the few people I have met [who] is simply unwavering on his commitment and dedication to our team and our client-partners,” Galaviz adds. “And with all of the individual accolades he has received, he manages to stay honest, loyal and extremely humble. He’s not a smoke-and-mirrors person. He does what he says and holds all the team accountable. It’s a pretty great thing.”

Simpson believes consistency is the key to successfully training for the Ironman, and he uses that same consistency in serving his clients. Given that most of esd’s client generation has grown through referrals, the company seems to have discovered that consistency is the key to enduring tough times, just as it is to enduring the toughest of race conditions. “It takes dedication to get up every day to train, including weekends, and that same dedication helps us generate great results for our clients,” Simpson says. “It’s the little things that get noticed, just as it’s the little things that make the difference in training. As long as we stay focused and provide uncompromising results, good things will continue to happen.”

For more information on esd & associates digital communications, call 210-348-8008.

Along with his passion for writing, Aaron Seaman serves as director of business development in the Employee Benefits Consulting and Insurance Services Divisions of SWBC. He may be reached at 

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