Iowa State alumnus who made Forbes 30 Under 30 list

Iowa State alumnus makes Forbes 30 Under 30 list

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Iowa State alumnus makes Forbes 30 Under 30 list

, Livhanson95

Tyler Stafford went from producing Youtube shows in his dorm room to being recruited by Red Bull to be their community and content manager for all the global content that was created for Youtube.

When Stafford first came to Iowa State as a freshman, he had no idea what he wanted to major in or what he wanted to do when he graduated. But after taking Jay Newell’s Advertising 230, he started to gain interest in advertising. He realized in that class that there were actually a lot of connections between real life things he was already interested in and advertising. He had an interest in acting and even looked into adding theatre as a second major, but axed that idea when he realized he wouldn’t be able to graduate in four years. He wanted to find something where he could talk a lot and realized that part of him wanted to be a talk show host. He ended up making speech communications his second major.

All advertising majors at Iowa State need an internship in order to graduate. Stafford loved late night television and late night talk shows so he made videos for every single one of them to hopefully be picked up for an internship. Unfortunately he heard back from no one. But Stafford wouldn’t give up that easy. He then tried to contact Ray Cole, local Iowa ABC affiliate. Cole got back to him and Stafford went to meet Cole and show him a video he made. The two ended up talking for an hour and Cole sent in Stafford’s video into ABC and ABC ended up hiring him for an internship at Jimmy Kimmel.

“And this is a trick for anybody to use. If you ever want to get a meeting with somebody, just ask for 15 minutes of their time and more often than not, they always give it to you and more often than not, it’s going to be more than 15 minutes,” Stafford said. “Granted, it was an unpaid internship so there was definitely some positives and negatives there, but it definitely did set me up for success in regards to larger distribution platforms and big budget productions.”

Jimmy Kimmel was where Stafford was first introduced to huge budgets that produce shows. Stafford loved seeing the passion of the workers at Jimmy Kimmel as they’d work from sunup to after sundown. Stafford was able to help with a little bit of everything on set for his internship.

“It was just awesome and neat to be able to be there and see the energy that goes into it. The passion that every individual brings to it,” Stafford said. “It was a blast.

While at Iowa State, Stafford was also a brand manager for Red Bull which meant that he was responsible for, “finding creative ways to highlight red bull with students within their daily lives.” At the same time, he was also making Youtube videos in his dorm room on the side just for fun. But when his Youtube Channel started getting more and more popular, Red Bull somehow caught wind of it and about a month before Stafford graduated, Red Bull was offered a position at Red Bull to be their global content and community manager for any content that was made for Youtube.

“It was probably wildly irresponsible for them to put a 22 year old in charge of all this. Particularly because it was literally just me. And those few years were both very, very fun and exciting because I had my hands in so much work, but also like never sleeping because you’re up at 4 a.m. talking to the Chinese media house at Red Bull about a piece of content that needs to be up in like an hour,” Stafford said.

While at Red Bull Stafford got the chance to work to create content with budgets much bigger for Youtube than the budgets he’d had when he was creating Youtube videos in his dorm room. He worked to build internet audiences around action sports, music, E-sports, and a couple of niche communities. He also had to learn to work with data. Initially, this was boring for Stafford but once he got the hang of it, it has become quite interesting to him.

“I’ve come to realize anything that you’re doing digitally needs analytics,” Stafford said. “And those numbers can sometimes be super interesting on how to create something super creative that’s more than likely going to work based on understanding the data that goes along with it.”

In his four years at Red Bull, Stafford helped them hit over a billion views on Youtube and get over 4 million subscribers. Red Bull was also where he met his current boss at Omelet, an independent creative agency. It ended up being an easy transition to ‘Omelet’ because they still do a lot of work with Red Bull.

“We [Omelet] were their agency of record last year for all their what’s called a consumption occasion, which deals with things like, ‘What are times outside of action sports that you would be drinking a Red Bull?’ Like if it’s studying, or if it’s before gaming or situations like that, as well as like for their E-Sports stuff. So I still stay really close to the Red Bull crew but I’m working on a lot of other things as well.”

Stafford is the senior content strategist at Omelet, a title which he said he was allowed to make up himself. He has gathered many skills in his time as a professional so he gets to work with clients on about all of the services they offer.  

“Within Omelet I am the account guy for certain brands, I’m a new business guy, I am a copywriter, I’m a producer. It just depends on the client and what their needs are, what my skill-set is and timing, but luckily I get to juggle a bunch of different balls and that gets me excited to go to work everyday because there’s a different challenge setting me up on a different basis.”

Stafford also works a lot with analytics, a relatively new need in the ad world. The reason for this is because previously, ad agencies might’ve put a billboard and estimated the amount of people had seen it. But with social media being a new arena to place ads, you are now able to see exactly who saw the ad, what demographic breakdown of the viewers are, where are the viewers located, how long they watched a video, and exactly where they all stopped watching the video. This helps ad agencies to completely customize their ads for who’s going to be watching them and how to possibly improve ads to the viewers liking for future ads.

“Measuring success now is more important than ever. So you’re trying to figure out from a creative standpoint, now alright what can I do in videos to make people interested right from the get-go and stick throughout the entire thing. So just more about the measurements of success and how to adjust that for future things and prove to a client that ‘Here this was successful’, or ‘Maybe it wasn’t but we learned a lot ok now we can pivot.’”

Stafford’s work environment at Omelet is different than your typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule. At Omelet, they base their schedules around the client’s needs and the amount of work they have to get done. Some days employees could be their from sunup to sun-down and others they could get out of the office early. The policy at Omelet is ‘get your work done.’ As long as employees do that and are contributing, then they can come and go as they please. But Stafford says that isn’t a problem with the group of people he works with.

“We are also people that are so passionate and so hard-working that it never gets abused and everyone’s on top of their game in making sure that they get their stuff done so they have this policy continue to go forward and have that freedom.”

Things that have contributed to Stafford’s success:

1) Take advantage of resources

Stafford credits Iowa State for having plentiful resources, classes and  extracurriculars there to offer him and other students. He’s amazed at the prices of the resources and how cheap they are compared to the real world. He encourages all students to take advantages of as many opportunities as they can while they’re there.

“There are certain things that I learned while at iowa state that are definitely helpful. Like my journalism class, Illustrator, and Photoshop, were super helpful. Iowa state and its crazy, and it never sinks in because someone said this to me when I was at Iowa state and it didn’t sink in… there are so many resources it is insane. How many resources, how many free resources there is and how cheap these programs are for you right now. Photoshop for example is like hundreds of dollars when you get out of school and I’m pretty sure it’s in the MU for like $40. And you get to keep that forever. And then on top of that, all the classes you can take, all the extracurriculars that allow you to get these skill sets,” Stafford said. 

2) Time management

Stafford believes that one of the most important skills to learn in college is time management. As a passionate and creative person, he tends to bite off more than he can chew and then must push himself to always rise to the occasion. Most of the time he under mounds of pressure, It can be particularly scary to him when a brand’s money is riding on his shoulders. This is why he encourages people to learn how to make a calendar and write their schedules down because that’s one thing that has really helped him become successful in the working world.

“That’s the motto: fake it till you make it! And just throw yourself in completely and oh my god, almost always I feel like I’m in over my head. It’s just one thing after the other in a really great way or at least for me, in a really fun way.”

2) Always stay passionate, learning, and growing

Stafford is a big believer in always learning new things and skill sets, especially since it only can make one more marketable in the professional sphere. The advertising agency is something Stafford marvels over because of the nature of its constant changing. So he stresses to students to get as much experience you can in the media realm in order to be more valuable to not only one’s agency but to oneself.

“I wouldn’t say you’re expected by any means to have all these skill-sets but I’ll tell you that your value goes up dramatically if you do. If at minimum you understand how these programs work… because from a production standpoint, for example, if you know how to communicate to someone who is editing, and you may not be the best editor, for example, I’m not the best editor, but I know how to do it. So then when I’m communicating to someone I’m not asking for something that can’t be done or I’m thinking in a way that someone else might not be thinking and that thought process is just going to be more valuable if you just understand the minute details of how you do it,” said Stafford

Whether it’s in his business or in his personal life, when Stafford comes up with a good idea, he takes it on at full speed and brings it to life. He doesn’t let what other people think ever stop him from tying something new or learning new things. And though he’s already reached a level of success, Stafford is passionate about continuing to learn and grow in all aspects of his life. Fear of failure isn’t something he pays too much attention to, knowing that trial and error is the way to learn.

“At my core, I’m just a super passionate dude. And whether that is for advertising or whether that is for my personal projects and things that I love, I’m trying to throw 100 percent of myself at whatever it is I’m working on, regardless on if I’m going to fail or not,” Stafford said.

3) Keep people you admire as your peers

Another big part of Stafford’s success is his peers. He keeps individuals that inspire him around him. People that he might want to become like someday or collaborate with. Another example of Stafford following his passions and giving them 100 percent is when he and two of his peers from Iowa State got together to make a comedy show just for a side job. The side-job comedy show ended up being the biggest stand-up comedy show on the west side of L.A.

“We’ve got dudes like Eric Ondre to do stand up with us. Bill Burr, Reggie Wats came to do a show. We weren’t getting paid, in fact we probably lost money on the venture but it was meeting this guy at Iowa state and then like seeing his passion and me just really wanting to work with him and collaborate that really inspired me to go after it and start creating this show. And that happens not just on his level but on multiple peer levels of people i want to work with. There’s no one person. I think it’s more about seeing passions in people and wanting to align myself with those passions.”

4) Make the move

Stafford urges students that if they want to make the move to a big city to follow their dreams, just do it even though it seems scary. Stafford said that he didn’t know if he would’ve ever made the move to L.A. if he hadn’t have gotten a job offer but he’s very glad he did. He’s also seen a lot of his friends make the big move and is inspired by them.

“I think a part of me was relatively sheltered in regards to like growing up in such a lucky scenario like Des Moines and never really seeing any negative… L.A. can get like rough at times. But my point being, whether or not, you’re interested in getting out and moving to a city whether it be L.A., or New York, or Chicago, or Kansas City, or even Des Moines, don’t let a job stop you from moving out there. There are jobs everywhere and I think if you want to be somewhere, first and foremost, just do it. Immerse yourself in that community and you’ll be able to find something over time.”

5) Your interests will change and that’s OK

“I think interests and things change over time and it’s totally normal and probably very healthy to continue changing your interests because all that’s going to do is just allow you to continue learning and continue exploring and chasing passions and then whether or not those passions can translate into a career or whether they just to be a passion I think that is my personal way of approaching life,” Stafford said. “Maybe not all my passions are going to turn into careers but if I continue chasing them to certain extent regardless, hopefully they can. Or at minimum I can apply some of that to my job and maybe come in with a different perspective.”