Stafford’s shenanigans: ISU alumnus named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30

Meg Songer, sophomore in open option-Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Tyler Stafford, sophomore in pre-advertisingPhoto: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Shing Kai Chan

Meg Songer, sophomore in open option-Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Tyler Stafford, sophomore in pre-advertisingPhoto: Shing Kai Chan/Iowa State Daily

Danielle Ferguson

Finding out he was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 while he was taking a shower made Ty Stafford scream like a little girl. 

The day Stafford, 27, found out he was named one of the top young professionals in the country, he was taking a shower when his girlfriend burst in the bathroom screaming he received the honor. 

“I screamed, of course. I was in shock,” Stafford said. “I screamed, ran around, woke up my friends and now my friends give me endless shit for sounding like a little girl.” 

Stafford, an ISU alumnus and a lead content strategist for ad agency Omelet, was selected as one of Forbes’ 2016 30 Under 30 in Marketing and Advertising.

Stafford’s OCD tendencies, like ironing his boxers every morning in high school, may have jump started him on the path to secure the head content strategy position at a Los Angeles-based advertising agency he holds today.

And it may have all stemmed from the creativity of his YouTube channel called “Ironing My Underwear,” on which Stafford started posting fun childhood video stories — such as How to Not Suck at Dating Apps; How to Survive Freshman Year; College Dorm and Dating Advice; Fake I.D.’s Scarred Me — as a way to express himself.

“It wasn’t until college I realized [ironing my boxers every morning] didn’t make sense,” Stafford said of his habit that inspired the name for his video channel. “It was a way to tell my stories to the camera and put them up on YouTube. Random people started watching them and then I wondered if other people would watch them. You eventually find your niche and mine was telling embarrassing childhood stories.”

Stafford, 27, originally from Des Moines, started at Iowa State as an open option major. He went on to graduate with degrees in advertising and speech communication. He continued to make videos throughout college, including one that won a $10,000 prize for Dance Marathon to create an education fund for children who had to miss school for treatments. His videos also helped him become the on-campus representative for Red Bull, which turned into a full-time job after graduation.

“Red Bull asked me to run their YouTube channels,” Stafford said of the job offer. “It was a no-brainer. I moved a week and a half after graduation.”

He stuck with Red Bull for a few years. Then in May 2015, transitioned to his current position with Omelet, the company that nominated him for the Forbes award. Omelet is an advertising agency that serves clients such as Pokemon, Red Bull, Walmart, Nickelodeon, Nike and more, as its head content strategist. In fact, before speaking to the Daily, Stafford had just left a brainstorming session about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“A majority of the job is essentially really in-depth brainstorming. Taking what the client is asking and how to execute it and what they want,” Stafford said.

But it’s more than a bunch of fun, though Stafford said that’s a bulk of it.

“It’s one thing to produce the content,” Stafford said. “It’s another to find the audience that gives a shit. I put the pieces together to find the audiences and shape the content for those audiences.”

Before gigs like vamping up Red Bull’s YouTube presence and brainstorming sessions about TNMT, Stafford locked in a production internship with “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” to fill his Greenlee School internship requirement before graduating from Iowa State, something he said gave him a “huge leg up.”

Ben Crosby, associate professor of English, had Stafford in his senior capstone class and said he’s not surprised by Stafford’s accomplishment. The qualities Crosby said helped get Stafford to the top? Enthusiasm, hard work, a love of people and cultivating relationships.

“He took on assignments with enthusiasm,” Crosby said. “Every assignment was an opportunity, not a burden. He’s a hard worker with a lot of ambition and he’s confident in his own abilities.”

Crosby said when Stafford was enrolled at Iowa State, some of the instructors in the English and speech communications departments would call Stafford the “next Conan O’Brien.”

Stafford is a member of Delta Tau Delta, was heavily involved with Dance Marathon, participated in organized debates on campus, helped coach speech at Ames High School and started the mime program there.

Yes, miming.

Miming is how Des Moines Valley High School drama director Stacy Hansen met Stafford. The requirements and standards associated with the miming group, Hansen said, sharpened Stafford’s skills that he carried through to today.

“They are forced to think on their feet,” Hansen said of the miming group, Baker’s Dozen. “They work hard at their craft. That was something being part of that – his work ethic. Being creative, which, he is. You have to work at being creative. In the way he approaches things, where I think a lot of people are going to see something from one value, he can see it from all angles. He looks for the unexpected.”

It wasn’t always so easy for Stafford, though. Reading and focusing in classes proved difficult with the gremlins of dyslexia and severe ADD impairing his learning at first, he said.

“It sucked sitting in my room reading every line over and over and over again,” Stafford said. “I went through a lot of training to try and train my brain to try and get through it. There’s no good way to do it.”

Tutors, time and a shift in the academic program from reading-based work to project-based were his saving graces, he said.

Beyond academics, Stafford teetered with exploring forbidden areas and dared to race the Curtiss to Beardshear run. He found passion in Dance Marathon, which also may have helped nourish his creative side. 

“I think it’s such a good way to have fun and give back,” Stafford said. “That was a huge element for the fraternity [in] unleashing my creative juices through all these competitions they do. We were writing songs and sketches for these competitions. Forcing myself to write like that was really helpful to apply to advertising.”

That action of getting involved is part of the advice Stafford would pass along to the budding minds of Iowa State.  

“My advice is simple – and oddly similar to Shia LeBeouf’s viral video. Do shit! Stop thinking about how great it would be to do something and just do it. Even if it sucks, it’s better than not doing it at all and at minimum you will learn from it. Bottom line. Go out and create something.”