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Dream Teams: Brownstein's “Pair of Ad Nerds” Meredith Schwinder and Chris Grenier

Advertising Agency
Philadelphia, USA
Brownstein’s group creative directors Meredith Schwinder and Chris Grenier tell LBB’s Ben Conway about bonding over their “encyclopaedic knowledge” of ads, which projects they’re proudest of and what they teach each other

When Meredith Schwinder was in the fifth grade, her local newspaper held an ad design competition. Her ad won first prize and her art direction career was born. Meredith studied advertising design at Washington University in St. Louis before working in Boston and New York, creating integrated campaigns for brands including Ocean Spray, Thomson Reuters and US Army. Throughout her career, Meredith has worked closely with Special Olympics, an organisation she’s been passionate about since first volunteering in high school. For Chris Grenier, he knew advertising was his calling from the moment he saw the ‘Mean Joe Green’ Coke Super Bowl commercial. Chris got his start in advertising studying at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Miami Ad School/Portfolio Centre. Throughout his career, he’s helped create award-winning campaigns for many national brands including Chevrolet, American Express and the USPS, as well as regional work for GIANT Foods, Inspira Health and the Pennsylvania Lottery. 

After meeting at Brownstein, group creative directors Chris and Meredith instantly recognised each other as a fellow “ad nerds” and, after initially being paired with other people, they would eventually find common ground over their encyclopaedic knowledge of ads. “I knew right away he was a real ‘ad guy’,” says Meredith. “We got the same references, made the same jokes, and soon enough, we were finishing each other’s sentences. We still do.”

Despite not being the same age, Chris says that the duo share a similar life view and “old soul” philosophy. “She can dig back to see what worked in the past, and what’s long-lasting. She’s not caught up in her own time or era and having that far-reaching pool of references to draw from is important.” As well as their similar outlooks, what really makes the pair blend so well together is the flexibility they have in their respective roles. As Meredith explains, “Neither of us is ‘just’ a copywriter or art director. Chris can come up with a visual idea and I can write a script, and we value that in each other.” Their different - but complementary - skillsets are partially a result of the different paths they took into the industry, bringing “different perspectives based on past experiences”. In their previous vocations, Meredith worked in a lot of independent shops and “small but mighty” agencies such as New York’s Terri & Sandy, whereas Chris brings more “big agency” experience from his time at Ogilvy & Mather, FCB and more before joining Brownstein.

The collaboration with Chris that Meredith is most proud of is the ‘Minimally Invasive Surgery’ Super Bowl Spot that they created for Inspira Health in 2021. “It’s a simple idea, well-executed, and it came out exactly as we’d hoped, despite tight timing, a small budget and production during the early days of covid” she says. Chris’ favourite is a different Inspira Health spot - highlighting the ‘She Chose Inspira’ campaign which promotes the healthcare provider’s oncology centres through a minimialist but effective black and white film. Chris says, “I remember every detail of how that came about and how we made it happen. Poignant, simple, impactful work is my favourite - you get 60 seconds to discover and explore one moment.”

When looking for inspiration in his work life, Chris finds himself striving to honour the memory of his late parents and show them his abilities as he always did. “I still try to make them proud,” he says. “Whenever I did something I felt was significant, I shared it with them and tried to impress them. They were both funny people, and I always tried to make them laugh. I still do.” 

And although this dream team now lives relatively far away from one another, they can always find inspiration and support from each other, whether that be professionally or personally.  “I still delivered him a Carvel Fudgie the Whale ice cream cake on his birthday,” says Meredith - to which Chris responds with a drooling Homer Simpson impression.

Overall, what Meredith feels that she learns from Chris is a sense of balance and a “valued and valuable” ability to remain calm. She says, “He has a quiet presence and patience that garners him a lot of respect... I envy his ability to not get riled up by the good, the bad or the crazy things we deal with daily.” For her creative collaborator, remembering lessons that Meredith has taught him and reasons to admire her is an easy task. “I’ve never met anyone as tireless as Mer. In my career, I’ve written things in the car, in the shower but I still need to be relentless and be better.” Chris continues, “I can procrastinate, but Mer just has this energy that doesn’t give up - that feeling of ‘we should look again, we should push this’ - she’s renewed my fervour for being relentless and chasing perfection.”