Effective marketing has always been essential for increasing brand visibility. In today’s highly competitive market, it’s not enough for brands to simply promote themselves; they must also focus on generating sales. Achieving this requires investment, innovation, and decisive action. While it’s relatively straightforward to market products and services by emphasizing their quality, it’s far more challenging to maintain widespread popularity over time. Ly Tran, founder and CEO of “stiletto collective,” has been making strides in the marketing world with her creativity and innovation.
Ly Tran’s Background: From Texas to Los Angeles
Growing up in Texas as a child of Vietnamese immigrants, Ly Tran found herself questioning her sense of belonging and direction in life while watching TV shows that triggered her inner voice. She recalls how, just as Amal Clooney was inspired to become a lawyer watching Law & Order as a Lebanese immigrant in Britain, she knew she wanted to work in advertising after watching shows such as Bewitched, Bosom Buddies, and Melrose Place. At the same time, she also aspired to be like Connie Chung, a prominent Asian American journalist. Ly was drawn to the idea that “If you can see her, you can be her™,” which is the central message behind SeeHer’s campaign.
With her sights set on advertising, Ly pursued a degree in the field at Emerson College in Boston. Her passion and hard work paid off as she landed her first internship-turned-job at BBDO in Los Angeles, where she began her career in advertising.
Building Stories Around Brands
Ly Tran, with her extensive 25 years of experience in the industry, founded her own company, stiletto collective, in 2021. Her goal is to work with organizations that align with the agency’s core values, with a focus on building stories around brands. What sets stiletto collective apart from other agencies is that it doesn’t have traditional employees and doesn’t follow the typical Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) convention. Instead, the agency puts the collective first, working with a network of talented individuals who align with the client’s unique needs—stiletto collective works with brands of all sizes, empowering them to unleash their true potential. Despite there being over 88,000 agencies in the US, Ly has managed to establish a unique culture and set of values at a stiletto collective. By prioritizing the collective, the agency works with individuals who share the same level of intelligence, motivation, and history as friends.
Rising Above Adversities
As a minority woman, Ly faced several obstacles in her career. She recounts instances where she was not seen or misjudged due to her ethnicity and physical appearance. At just 5’2 and of Asian descent, Ly resorted to wearing high heels to increase her visibility and make sure people noticed her. However, her appearance was not always appreciated. Once, she had to endure an uncomfortable comment from her boss, who implied that her short dresses and skirts were the only reasons she was invited to important meetings. Comments like this had a negative impact on Ly’s self-confidence and made her question if her ideas and contributions were valued at work. Despite these setbacks, Ly was determined to change the status quo and pave the way for more inclusive workplaces.
Ly’s innovative contributions to the industry have earned her well-deserved recognition. Ad Age honored her as one of their Women to Watch, and Campaign US’s Digital 40 over 40 also recognized her achievements. She has spoken at numerous conferences, including ANA, AWAW (Ad Women for All Women), BOLO, CES, DAA (Digital Advertising Alliance), Mediapost, PRSA, SXSW, US Travel’s ESTO, and more. Ly is committed to promoting cultural change and challenging stereotypes within the advertising agency.
Notable Campaigns and Projects
Ly has had an illustrious career in the advertising industry, working on numerous notable campaigns and projects. She began her journey in Los Angeles, where having a movie account was the ultimate badge of legitimacy. Ly worked for two different agencies, one with MGM and the other with Warner Bros, allowing her to work on influential campaigns for these major movie studios.
One such notable campaign was the collaboration between BMW and James Bond, where Ly played a significant role. She was also part of the iconic You’ve Got Mail and AOL campaign. Despite working on these high-profile campaigns, Ly finds the most satisfaction in working with challenger brands. One such project was with Cargill Protein, which had gone through a turkey recall. Ly and her team created a retro 70’s campaign, inventing the word “Turkify” to make the brand whole turkey again. They based their insights on YEMMIES, or young educated millennial mommies before the term millennials even existed. These experiences have given Ly a unique perspective and helped her hone her skills as a marketer.
Leaving Footprints of Inspiration
Throughout her career, Ly has experienced various aspects of agency life, from the daily grind of promoting the company to discovering new opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals and industry experts. She attributes much of her success to the trust and support of different leaders who have enabled her to make her own mark. However, Ly also recognizes the lack of diversity and representation in advertising. According to studies, 40% of women do not relate to the women portrayed in ads, with only 3% featuring women in leadership roles and 2% portraying women as intelligent. This is a stereotype that Ly is determined to break.
Ly offers advice to young women in their careers, urging them to become experts in their industry. She advises them to follow their passions and not to conform to expectations that do not align with their values. Ly emphasizes the importance of earning a seat at the table rather than expecting it to be given. As she puts it, “If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it! Regardless of the ad industry or another industry, have passion for what you do even at work. And once you break in, remember that you don’t automatically get a seat at the table, it’s something earned.”
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