My Windy RoadAugust 7, 2018
By Meghan McCollum, Senior Strategist
Hello. My name is Meghan and I’m new here. Well, here as in Fast Horse. I grew up in suburbia outside of the Twin Cities and went to undergrad at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. After that though, all bets were off as I began traveling and became fascinated with all of the diverse and amazing ways people live out their lives here on earth.
My path to advertising was windy. I graduated with a degree in communication studies, which is incredibly broad (my uncle became a pilot for American Airlines with one for goodness sake). So really, the sky was the limit with what I could do with my career. Admittedly, right after I graduated I was a little lost.
It was 2008. The economy was crashing further by the day and with it, my hopes of being meaningfully employed. I had studied abroad in Barcelona and loved that experience, so I thought, hey, how can I go do some cool stuff somewhere else and just kind of skip this part where I have no job and no money? I did the logical thing and uprooted myself and moved halfway across the world to Seoul to teach English.
It was character-building, to say the least. It was here that I started noticing how different the advertising was compared to home. The products were different, and the tone of the commercials was something I had a hard time imagining would work in the U.S. Why?
After my time in Korea I got home, decided “nope, still not for me” and left again a couple months later, this time to Rotterdam, Netherlands, to pursue a master’s degree in media, culture and society. I still didn’t have advertising on my radar as a long-term career, but if the seed had been planted in Korea, it started sprout during my time in Holland. One day, while watching TV with some Dutch friends, a Burger King commercial came on (in English since their proficiency is so high there). One of my friends was disgusted. “Ugh. That commercial is so American.” My curiosity kicked in at high-velocity. Burger King must have ran the same ad in the U.S. and in the NL – but it was clearly missing the mark. Why?
I arrived home with a freshly minted M.A. and still didn’t know what to do with my career. I had a friend who had had an internship at a small agency in town and had a great experience so he recommended me for that same internship – and I got it! I was elated – advertising. How cool! Yet, I still hadn’t discovered what all of these experiences on my path were pointing me toward: strategy.
At a coffee with one of the art directors toward the end of my internship, he asked me what I found interesting about the business. I told him about my experiences in Korea and the Netherlands and how I was fascinated by how brands communicate with different audiences, tailoring not only messaging but products, and all of the considerations regarding cultural trends, etc., etc., etc. (seriously, I went on forever), and when I finally ran out of gas and began to shut up he leaned in, looked me in the eye, and said, “you have to look into brand strategy.”
I was confused because at that small shop they didn’t have a “strategy” team or a “strategist” per se, so I pretended I knew at least vaguely what he was talking about (likely unconvincingly) and went home to furiously Google what this whole strategy thing was about. I read the first few sentences of whatever web page I’d landed on and CLICK. I’d been tip-toeing around it for years and finally, at this magical moment my passions, strengths, and experiences all came together in a glorious and satisfying moment of clarity. I’ve never looked back.
That’s my windy road, and honestly, I prefer my roads windy. The curves and turns are where you can find the most amazing things to pick up along the way and ultimately shape the destination, even if you don’t quite know where you’re going!
I’m so looking forward to the journey of being part of the Fast Horse family. Let’s get on the road!