The Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo on visiting seven continents with her kids and the allure of staying on the move
Kristen Cavallo is CEO of the The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia. She was named Ad Age’s Executive of the Year, in part for her efforts to right the shop after most of its leadership was let go after a sexual harassment scandal broke in 2017.
After the appointment of Karen Costello as chief creative officer, the shop has celebrated 25 years of Geico campaigns with the “Best of Geico” contest, rolled out new work for Buffalo Wild Wings and won back former client UPS.
In this episode of “Ad Block,” Cavallo talks about traveling to all seven continents with her children, beginning before they were teenagers. “I’m an army brat and grew up moving around a lot and valued it,” she says. “My kids weren’t going to be so lucky to move as frequently as I did, so I knew that travel was important.”
Planning international trips around spring break, the single mother began checking off countries and continents with her son and daughter. “When my son was young, we decided that our goal would be to always have more stamps in our passport than candles in our birthday cake, so it became a thing to go out of the country at least once a year so that you were even,” she says. After hitting four continents, the family decided to visit them all, a feat they accomplished recently with a trip to Antarctica on an ice breaker that culminated in a polar plunge while on the lookout for hungry orcas.
They've developed close ties with some of the people and locations they’ve visited, and Cavallo supports a group home in Rwanda that just celebrated its first high school graduation and college acceptance. “They’ve learned to trust each other,” she says of her kids, “and they’ve learned that we have far more in common with people than we have that separates us.”
Cavallo also weighs in on the limits of casual conversation, going off on tangents and that time an angry customer called her a “fem-nazi.”