Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Bayne
Lauren Bayne, alumna of the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations, has quite the resume. From learning her foundational skills at Austin top-shop GSD&M to gaining the courage to launch her own niche-targeting agency, Bayne has tips on all aspects of the advertising industry. I recently chatted with her to learn some more:
Did you always know you wanted to be an advertising major at UT Austin?
“Actually, no. I went to UT to major in Broadcast Journalism and was required to take a Communications class outside of my major. I had never really thought about the advertising industry and didn’t really know what people with an ad career really did, so I thought I’d sign up for “Intro to Advertising” (ADV 318J) just to check that box. Looking back, I’m so thankful this was a requirement because I would have never discovered such a perfect calling for my creativity and strengths. I fell in LOVE with this class and loved Professor Murphy and after about a few weeks, I officially changed my major to Advertising. I was accepted to Texas Creative soon thereafter and got to learn from Deborah Morrison, Patty Alvey and Jack Reed. In 1997, I won the USA Today Collegiate Challenge, a national advertising contest that encourages college students to promote volunteerism at the grassroots level. My print piece ran full-page in USA Today and I got a trip to D.C.! This was a big deal and it helped cement my career choice for sure!”
What was the turning point when you decided you wanted to leave your job and start your own company?
“On September 11, 2001, I was 26 years old and woke up like the rest of us on that tragic day in history and got ready for work. I sat at the edge of my bed staring in horror at what was unfolding in front of me on the TV.
It was the first time in my life that I had ever really felt vulnerable as a human. It was the first time in my adult life that I had ever really thought about my mortality and what my existence here on Earth was all about. And I was in shock.
I arrived to work later that morning and the agency was almost silent. People were trying to do their jobs, but it was hard. And weird. And unsettling.
My creative director walked into my cubicle and we chatted for a little bit about the attacks and what the latest news was, etc. Then he changed the subject and said, “Sooooo…those BBQ table tents are gonna be $11.99 now instead of $13.99 so we’re gonna need to do some value & savings type lines and I need to see your first round EOD, ok?”
I looked at him and mumbled “ok” and he walked out. I stared at the now-empty opening in my cubicle where he was standing and I immediately thought, “Oh my goodness. I’m just selling ribs for a living. Is that what I’m doing with my life? Convincing people to eat more ribs?”
Now this was definitely a jaded, emotional response to what could have been a huge strategic opportunity for me to advertise the importance, now more than ever, to get your friends and family together and enjoy their company over a good meal. But it wasn’t as clear to me then how I could have changed my mindset.
That exchange single-handedly sent me on a new trajectory and I immediately asked if I could switch accounts and work more on brands like Race for The Cure and United Healthcare. Businesses that I felt, at the time, had a higher calling and bigger purpose. At the same time I was noticing in myself a huge entrepreneurial side of me that was growing. I loved learning about the businesses my clients ran and the different challenges they had along the way. I devoured Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Business and Personal Growth” section at Book People. So in 2002, I ended up leaving the agency world for the start-up world and spent the next few years immersed in it.
And then...I became a mom.
Like ADV 318J, I had no idea how motherhood was going to change me. I thought from all of my babysitting and camp counselor experience, I’d be able to raise a kid, raise a business, serve on the PTA, attend baseball games, be a good wife and throw elaborate birthday parties easy peasy!
Boy, was I wrong.
And I struggled for a very long time trying to figure out my maternal and professional identities.
For the next 5 years, I freelanced, I was a Creative Recruiter, and I never stopped thinking about someday owning my own business. Along the way, I also started noticing how my relationship with brands had changed literally overnight since becoming a mom. I noticed how differently both my husband and I shopped and consumed products and services now that we were parents. My new identity had now changed me from the stereotypical demographic, “Woman 25-35” to “Woman & Mom 25-35” and that’s a HUGE distinction when it comes to the purchasing power and preference a woman will make– bigger than I think most brands and agencies really realize.
This “ah-ha moment” incubated for a long time and I did a lot of research and informal focus grouping amongst my creative colleagues and agency mentors to solidify what I believed was a valuable offering for brands.
So in 2015, I launched Offspring– a family-friendly creative content studio that provides insight and multi-media executions for brands who target some of the important demographics in the world: Moms, Dads & Kids.”
Do you have any advice on how to win over clients?
“BE YOURSELF. Clients are buying your creativity, your perspective, your style and your personality. That’s how this industry is even still alive today - it’s all based on the talent that exists inside the walls. I compare the client/agency relationship a lot to a dating relationship. There’s got to be chemistry beyond the contracts…advertising is so subjective and what one “tall, dark and handsome” is to one client, may not be the same for another. So if you stay authentic to who you are and what your personal brand stands for, you’ll attract like-minded clients who will hopefully not want to break up with you for a very long time. I also think more and more clients are looking for nimble, flexible, creative partners these days. It’s become easier and easier to crank out an ad over the years, so I think astute brands want more efficiency when it comes to their marketing endeavors. Less meetings, more productivity!”
Your agency recently teamed up with the CARE (Child Abuse Resource & Education) Program at Dell Children's Medical Center to create three PSAs on recognizing abuse and how to stop it. How was working on a PSA different from a traditional advertising campaign?
“Remember the “selling ribs” story from earlier? Well PSAs are the answer to my “how can I use my career to make the world a better place?” question. While I’d like to think I can achieve the same purposeful type work for traditional advertising, a PSA has a higher calling right from the gate, which I personally love. So the first difference is, that you’re selling awareness and ultimately, action for an emotional cause. The second difference would be the budget. PSAs don’t usually have big production budgets, so you have to team up with people who are willing to cut their rates because the cause is so important. I was so blessed to have Jason Uson and his team at Foundation Editorial along with Art Director, Robert Lin (fellow UT grad) jump on board and help me deliver three amazing spots on a budget that was 10 times less than what a normal production would warrant. I believe that doing great work with great people even when the money might not be that great will be rewarded one day. The third difference could be the media buy. Every PSA is different, but there isn’t usually a huge media budget either, so the creative needs to be really impactful so it can be shared and viewed organically. I’m really proud of the work we created for the CARE program at Dell Children’s and I think it’s an important message that can impact everyone.”
How do you manage balancing time with your family and running your own business?
“I don’t! No one really does, honestly. This is one thing I’d love to make sure the next generation of ad grads knows early. Don’t go chasing a balanced life.
Chase a fulfilling life. Chase an interesting life. Chase mistakes and the lessons from them. Chase a life full of experiences and people who might leave you un-balanced and be okay with that.
It will fuel your creativity.
It’s taken me the last 20 years of my life to realize that it’s not really balance we want, it’s stability. I want to make sure those who come behind me know that there will never be a balance. Balance is boring anyway…that’s for the Business School folks, not us Communication folks! I will say though, because I have such a huge awareness of the fleeting passage of time, my business “suffers” from growing faster than it could because I put my family first. My days pretty much end at 3 p.m. and pick back up at 9 p.m. because it’s important to me that I be there after school for my sons. But that is just me. You won’t know until you become a parent what your definition of “balance” will be; we ALL do it differently and there is no one right way of doing it. But this has been a sacrifice, both to my agency growth and to my family’s bottom line. But I’m ok with that for now because I’m a big believer in timing and surrendering to how the universe wants my story to unfold. And so far, I’ve been loving every chapter.”
Do you have any advice for students about to graduate and enter the advertising industry?
“1. Get an internship sooner than later!
I know I mentioned this before, but being able to see how the industry really operates outside of the classroom is HUGE.
2. Research what kinds of agencies match up with you as a person.
Do you think you’d do better at a smaller, privately owned shop where you wear more hats like Boone Oakley? Or do you like the idea of being at a large publicly owned shop with more resources and man-power like GSD&M? There are pros and cons to both and I think if you can figure out what size and type of shop suits you best, you’ll start your career off on the right foot.
3. Make sure you have thick skin and don’t be defensive.
This is a brutal, competitive industry on many levels, so you have to be able to separate your feelings from the critique because you will get A LOT of it. Stay humble as much as possible and eager to learn and re-calibrate your efforts.
4. Really think about your personal brand.
You just spent the last 4+ years learning about how to brand others, make sure and do it for yourself! Think about why people buy certain products and services and apply that to yourself and your work, so you too will be profitable. If you can make yourself a valuable agency and client asset, you will have a very successful career in this business.
5. Location, location, location.
Go to the big cities now! Unless you have personal reasons for why you have to work in certain geographical locations of course. Cut your teeth on multiple shops in the beginning. Like every 2-3 years. I know there are contradictions to this, but from my point of view, some of the most successful advertising professionals had to move around a lot to get there and if you can start in the big cities first, you’re one step ahead.”