2 Minutes With … Kelly Warkentien, SCD at Merrell

On creative energy that moves

Kelly leads global campaigns for Merrell, where she built the brand's first creative team and production studio. As a 20-year industry veteran, she has held roles at small and large agencies in Detroit and Los Angeles, including Sid Lee and Campbell Ewald.

We spent two minutes with Kelly to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Kelly, tell us ...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.  

I grew up in Southern California and spent as much time outside as I possibly could. I was fortunate to have such a range of climates all within a drive of my home—from the mountains to the desert to the coast. Now, I live in Michigan and I am discovering new ways to connect with and appreciate nature.

How you first realized you were creative. 

When I was in high school, my parents were planning on having new carpeting installed in our house, so they had all the floors ripped up. The concrete was exposed for about a week before the new carpet was installed, so I drew a mural on the entire floor of my bedroom. I sometimes wonder if the new owners of that house ever replaced the carpet and discovered it.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Piet Mondrian.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life. 

Creativity was always a part of my life, but I didn't see myself as creative and certainly didn't realize it was something you could make a living out of. I spent two years taking university-required classes and definitely leaned more towards the courses that were focused on art. I wasn't sure what I wanted to pursue and met with a university counselor who guided me toward art direction and design—and everything from there is history.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

The White Stripes. They pioneered such an incredible style of music and are also one of few bands that were able to define a distinct visual brand for themselves. From there, Jack White went on to establish Third Man Records, which also has incredible visual branding.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring. 

The Bear.

Your favorite fictional character.

Elaine Benes from Seinfeld

Someone or something worth following in social media. 


One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

My husband, Brett Warkentien, is a commercial film director, and we were incredibly moved by How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead, a N.Y. Times op-ed written by Dr. Naomi Rosenberg. With her permission, we made it into a film. We then donated it to States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a grassroots nonprofit.

A recent project you're proud of. 

I am most proud of our second campaign for Merrell's elite trail running collection called  "Same is Boring." 

Someone else's work you admired lately.

"Heinz AI Ketchup." Brilliant idea and timely with all of the dialogue around AI as a creative tool.

Your main strength as a creative person. 

Creative strategy. 

Your biggest weakness. 


One thing that always makes you happy. 

Sunshine and loved ones.

One thing that always makes you sad. 

People giving up.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I'd open a production company with my husband. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.