Tornado Drills and the Spice Girls Prepared Me for a Life in Advertising

So many twists and turns

Growing up, I loved creating adventures with my friends—sailing excursions in the summer, expeditions through the woods in our neighborhood or scavenger hunts to find secret treasure. And as typical Midwestern kids, we were used to having tornado drills in school. So, after seeing the movie Twister, it was only natural to start making my friends do our own tornado drills, right? 

At random moments, I'd make a loud fake alarm sound, and my friends knew it was time to get our backpacks, grab the essentials and find the safest refuge. I'd often stage such drills on beautiful, cloudless days. We always had a great time.

Also, I watched movies about fake catastrophes as much as I watched the Disney Channel, which was pretty easy being a child of the '90s. (I mean, Volcano, Dante's Peak, Armageddon, Titanic, Deep Impact!?).

At the same time, I've always been obsessed with pop culture—fashion, entertainment, art, music. I staged fashion shows and concerts, practiced awards acceptance speeches and perfected my fake waves to the crowd. I cried for weeks when Geri left the Spice Girls, and I can still name almost every Mary-Kate & Ashley movie. I was obsessed with how much a song or film can change someone’s life. How art brings beauty to an otherwise bleak space. How a piece of writing can shift an entire culture.

What do tornado drills and pop culture have in common? On the surface, very little. But at the root, they're both about processing complex components of the human experience.

My desire to be a hero was rooted in trying to find joyful refuge for the people around me—the rush of creating a port in a storm, or on a stage. This led me to forge a career in advertising. At its core, advertising is about building and growing meaningful relationships between people and companies. It's about telling stories that create emotional bonds and building brands that can play the hero in someone's life.

Since joining this business, and by starting Magic Camp, I've loved the opportunities to positively impact culture and bring prosperity to our clients and colleagues, all while having a great time. 

But the reality hasn't always matched that promise. 

Instead, we're often fighting for the "coolest ideas" both internally and with our clients—and we're supposed to be colleagues and partners. As an industry, we publicly praise great work, while privately (or in the Fishbowl comments section) rip it apart, sneering about how our own clients would be so much better off "if only they would buy better ideas."

For a long time, I was resentful of this dance and frustrated by its impact. We tell our clients about the importance of creativity and brand building. Yet, the advertising industry's brand is declining, and we're losing awesome talent and business opportunities to other professions.

I now realize that I wasn't the typical advertising pro. And I wasn't always a good one—at least not by typical industry standards. I cared too much about fixing problems and making teams happy. I had a manager tell me once, clearly annoyed, that I had a desk in every department except the one I was a member of. It took me a long time to understand why that could be a bad thing when we've been taught the importance of "collaboration." When a system and a business model are designed for burning tons of low-cost hours, efficiency and effectiveness can become the enemy. And real creative problem solving suffers.

My obsession with natural disasters and pop culture perhaps wasn't the typical childhood experience. But it led me to this industry. I care deeply about the impact we make, the people we meet and the role we serve in culture and our communities.

Tornado drills taught me the importance of preparedness and creating safe havens in the storm. Similarly, pop culture showed me the power of shared experiences to inspire and connect people.

In advertising, sharing enough context with our teams to make them feel valued and understand their purpose is crucial. It's about giving people the opportunity for input and control, fostering a sense of ownership and connection.

We have the power to evoke change, inspire beauty,and create emotional bonds. In doing so, we can transform not just brands, but the very culture we operate in.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.