Meet The Drum’s US 50 under 30 honorees from the South

Each day this week, The Drum has been highlighting 10 of the 50 talented women that make up our inaugural 50 under 30 in the US, a list that is celebrating women across the country who are putting themselves - and their cities - on the map via their creativity, achievements and dedication to an industry that is changing at a fast clip.

Today we are featuring our honorees from the South. Each was chosen with the help of a judging panel that included MullenLowe Los Angeles executive creative director Margaret Keene, Colle McVoy executive creative director Laura Fegley, Arnold Worldwide chief creative officer Icaro Doria and Barker EVP-creative director Sandi Harari.

After receiving nominations from readers, the judges helped choose the final 50, who will also be featured in the October issue of The Drum's magazine.

Below, our finalists from the South discuss career achievements, advice they’d give to those just starting out in advertising and favorite things about living and working in their respective cities.

Find out more below – and check back tomorrow (August 18) to read about our honorees from the Southwest.

Janice Pang, art director at Grow in Norfolk, Virginia

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

I'm still floored that my work won a Cannes Lion my first year in the industry.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

I'm inspired by personal progress of any kind. For example, when I teach UI/UX workshops, I love seeing my students grow their skills and confidence as designers. Teaching also keeps me on my toes and continually motivates me to be a better designer and communicator.

What brand means the most to you?

Road Runner Bags comes to mind. As a product company, their brand is largely what they produce – and I don't know very many brands that create with the integrity of Road Runner Bags. They're cyclists who make gear for cyclists, so they know their audience and work closely with them to continually improve their products. RRB makes stuff that lasts; that gets me up & out to my next adventure; and that withstands life's wear & tear along the way. That's the kind of brand I can stand behind.

Emily Morgan, broadcast cinematographer & editor at The Variable in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement so far is nabbing my job at The Variable before graduating from UNC School of the Arts. Working here has given me amazing opportunities, like making a road documentary with a local musician on his way to SXSW. The film was accepted into RiverRun International Film Festival and it won a 2017 Silver ADDY award in my district. It was even picked up by Rolling Stone, which was insane.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

My mom is my absolute hero. She has beaten death and blindness, raised four kids flying solo and somehow has an incredibly successful career. She is a self-made, inspirational success story clothed in something all-black, fabulous and almost always on sale.

Why do you like living and working in Winston-Salem?

Winston is a gem. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to work here after finishing school here. Normally, film kids are shipped out to LA/NY/ATL. I like those cities, and I've worked in them, but there's something strange and delightful about Winston-Salem. The city is home to talented and beautiful artists, and it has a small, intimate feel I gravitate towards. I love walking downtown and running into all five of my friends. Jokes aside, existing and working in a place that feels like a community and a home is a rare, valuable find.

Anastasia Hill, copywriter at Doe-Anderson in Louisville, Kentucky

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

The community that I come from motivates me. I grew up in Louisville’s west end (childhood home of Muhammad Ali) and it’s a very small, close-knit community where everyone notices what you do and how you do it. There are so many talented people who aren’t aware that there is a whole world of opportunity in advertising. Their presence reminds me that I have to go a little bit harder. Their love and support is both inspirational and motivating.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

There is no wrong way. I went the traditional route with a masters degree, internships, etc., but I’ve learned that a person’s journey here can be unique. I’ve met songwriters and playwrights turned copywriters, chefs turned art directors. I think that makes you interesting. The only right way is your own way.

What brand means the most to you?

Norton Healthcare is special because I’ve drawn creatively from a personal space: my daughter was in and out of the neonatal intensive care unit for first year of her life. If you have never experienced that, it’s difficult to empathize with someone whose child who has special needs. It just might not register. When you can speak to an audience from a personal place, that’s special.

On the other end of the spectrum, Maker’s Mark has been a blast to write for. Ironically, I really don’t drink, but the voice is fun, never macho, and it forces me to be witty and think about people who are different from myself. I guess it’s a little personal too: my dad owns a liquor store and our family has always loved this iconic brand, so that’s an example of full circle. When I joined Doe-Anderson, my dad asked me, ‘Did I get you that job???’ Of course you did, Dad. Of course.

Mo Lockard, art director at 22squared in Atlanta, Georgia

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

Seeing my first broadcast spot on TV was pretty special to me. I was at a bar when it came on one of the TVs. The couple next to me pointed and talked about it. It was a crazy feeling to know and actually see people in the real world (outside of our advertising bubble) react to something I created.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

Work your ass off & love your work, but never take it too seriously. It's just advertising.

What brand means the most to you?

Bravo. Taking time to escape the craziness of your job is very important. Taking time to watch Andy Cohen wrangle a group of crazy women.. also very important.

Stephanie Gelabert, design director at Humanaut in Chattanooga, Tennessee

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

After four years of iterative design and refinement, the Felt app (iOS) that I designed was offered a deal on Shark Tank, featured multiple times in the iOS App Store, and nominated for a Webby within a year. I was absolutely floored.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

Definitely don’t let a job title define who you are or limit you in any way. If there’s a project you want to kickstart or a new role you’d like to try, figure out what you want to make and go after it. Be scrappy, teach yourself, change is good.

Why do you like living and working in Chattanooga?

First, I love that I don’t have to embrace the hectic pace of city life for the opportunity to work on top-tier creative. I love the energy of larger cities, but Chattanooga is my home. Even if Chattanooga hadn’t evolved into a hub for tech and innovation, the city is basically a huge outdoor playground, which is a great opportunity for me to re-charge creatively. When I step out my front door, I can walk to a waterfall less than a mile away or ride a bike downtown to work. Which, in my book, is a fantastic reason to be here.

Claire Barnette, art director at EP+Co in Greenville, South Carolina

What brand means the most to you?

Denny’s means the most to me. The Denny’s brand is a huge part of why I chose to move to EP+Co. It’s a really fun and inspiring group of people and brand to work for.

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

My one piece of advice to young creatives would be to always “do your thing." It’s easy to question yourself and get caught up in the process and what you think a client will buy. Always bring something you love to the meeting, even if you know it will get killed.

What’s your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement so far is working with a partner to create our video game, Stranger Play, from scratch. We had limited resources and no money and were able to assemble a team to pull it off while the show “Stranger Things” was still relevant. I’m really proud of that.

Elaine Kelch, senior copywriter at BBDO in Atlanta, Georgia

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

Teaching. I started almost a year ago. I think that teaching reflects back to you what kind of creative you are and helps you become the creative you want to be. I’m definitely still working on the latter, but in the meantime I’m super excited to play whatever small part I can in helping my students lockdown internships and jobs at shops like Droga5, R/GA, Leo Burnett and VML.

What brand means the most to you?

The United States of America. It’s why I spend many, many hours volunteering my time after hours to advocate and organize for the issues and politics that matter to me.

Why do you like living and working in Atlanta?

Conflict is only ever a good thing for creativity, and Atlanta is a city constantly wrestling with its identity. It’s full of young creatives, from the portfolio schools to startups like Mailchimp and the new entertainment studios. But it’s also full of legacy, from places that defined the 60s Civil Rights movement and their opponents, to American icons like Coca-Cola. I am also not opposed to the trees. The trees are great.

Lauren Prociv, senior strategic planner-UX at The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

Learning how to play golf. I took up the game because I was tired of hearing the adage about how many deals and decisions are made out there and I didn’t want to miss out. Now I love it. It’s cheesy but the game is one giant metaphor for strategy, confidence and persistence in a world full of both sunny days and windy days and you have to be able to play through both.

What brand means the most to you?

Coca-Cola. When I was 13-years-old, I wrote and mailed (neither Facebook nor Twitter were invented yet..) them an angry letter over something hilariously trivial about their can art (long story). Two weeks later a giant package of swag arrived with a hand-signed letter thanking me for my passion. And there was two of everything because at the end of my letter I said something to the effect of, “P.S., my twin sister is mad at you too.”

What one piece of advice would you offer someone entering advertising today?

Creativity is a muscle. Too often I hear "I'm not creative enough for advertising." Well, you couldn't do 100 push-ups if you've never done push-ups before either, right? You can do both those things if you put in the work, stay focused and never settle.

Nikki Steeprock, senior designer at Clean in Raleigh, North Carolina

What brand means the most to you?

Listening to NPR on my commute is one of the few consistent things about my day. Like any great brand, it’s become a part of my routine, my go-to. NPR helps me feel more informed, not only about what’s happening in the world, but also closer to home. From the news to their many well-crafted podcasts, it’s been a way to continue learning and a source of new inspiration on a daily basis.

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

Clean has been working with Carolina Ballet for several years, so the challenge is to bring something fresh and interesting to the campaign year after year. I think it’s that challenge that helps push our creative work forward to make it stronger each season. This past season’s campaign was one I was most proud of – it was particularly exciting because we brought together two aspects of design that I’m passionate about: striking photography and hand lettering. I worked with an amazing team that pushed the project to be the best that it could be. The campaign was also chosen for a feature in Communication Art’s typography edition. I was honored to see something I worked on in such a highly regarded publication that I regularly look to for inspiration.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

My friends and colleagues are a huge source of inspiration. When our team is working together on an idea that everyone is excited about, that’s when our work feels best. I’m definitely motivated by a feeling of community, and the wealth of energy and support that comes with it. It’s amazing to see what even a small group of people can accomplish when they’re engaged and focused on a goal.

Madison Elkin, account supervisor at Intermark Group in Birmingham, Alabama

What is your biggest career achievement to date?

The amazing team of people I work with put a Mardi Gras Float from Mobile, Ala. in Times Square! Complete with beads, a brass band and MoonPies, of course. It was our second year doing out of home activations in New York City and this past year our social media impressions alone during the activations window garnered over 33 million. It’s amazing when everyone’s hard work pays off and you see real time results.

Who or what motivates and inspires you?

My husband, family and fur-son are definitely half of my motivation, but I don’t think I’d be on this list if it wasn’t for my constant drive to be the best that I can be, no matter what I’m doing. I’ll be the first to admit (followed by just about everyone else that knows me), I’m highly competitive and really enjoy a win.

What brand means the most to you?

Sweet Home Alabama (Alabama Tourism Department) has given me so many opportunities. The client is never afraid to let myself or the team try something new and push boundaries. It’s the kind of client everyone wants and I’m lucky enough to work on it.

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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