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The Shipyard is committed to making room at the table for all voices

Be Consistent About Changing The Environment

Originally featured by AdForum.
In order to creating lasting progress, consistency and representation are key. AdForum sat down with Lauren Banks, Vice President and Group Account Director at The Shipyard, on creating work environments that are open and healthy for all: consistency, mentorship and being understanding of each other's differences.

Can you tell us a bit about your role and your journey to arriving there?

I’ve spent my entire career in service to clients. In my role as VP Group Account Director at The Shipyard, I see myself as a possibility creator. I work to align our clients’ business and marketing goals then bring together our agency team members to develop smart and strategic campaigns that out deliver. From clients in CPG and healthcare hotel & travel, to finance and insurance, my role is to listen, guide and deliver. 

I’ve always fancied myself a good communicator. After all, it’s much of what I do every single day. Good communication requires us to recognize when there is a language barrier. This can persist between you and a client, and even between a client’s brand and its audience. 

When I was starting out in the agency world, there was a strong dichotomy between how agencies planned for general market audiences vs. multicultural audiences. The approach of planning for the “general market” and retrofitting for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ audiences was ineffective. At best, what often resulted was a watered-down campaign that resonated with no one – or at worst – a campaign that felt like it was pandering to specific audiences. As I watched the evolution in the industry, I decided to take my experience to one of America’s leading agencies that uses data to better communicate with audiences, creating cult brands loved by all.

At The Shipyard, I serve on our executive leadership team and lead our agency’s DEI&B efforts, so this idea of communication is always top of mind for me. Speaking one another’s language is how we break down barriers and create successful campaigns that resonate, and it’s a major ingredient in building equitable teams.

What barriers do women still face in our industry and how can we challenge them?

This is a big question.

There are so many things we could discuss here, but ultimately, I think it comes down to representation. Representation matters, and we need to make sure there’s room at the table for all voices, and they are being uplifted and heard.

If we don’t want to consistently see the same representation issues, we need to be consistent about changing the environment. A rising tide lifts all boats, so those in leadership have the responsibility of making space. This has to be an intentional effort and requires us to look around the table to see who is missing – really ask ourselves – who can I invite?

How do you use your position to build equitable teams that are diverse and balanced?

At The Shipyard, I’ve had the pleasure of co-leading our DEIB initiative beside others in leadership, including our steering committee. We have thought-provoking conversations about what it means to be an agency that truly embraces inclusion to lift all voices — that’s how we’re going to build equitable teams. It has to be a party of many (rather than a party of one), and we have representation from every single department involved in the conversation.

Personally, I challenge myself to engage in opportunities for mentorship, to raise the voices of women, people of color, those in the LGBTQ+ community, etc. Often, it’s simply having coffee with a student or young professional and offering to make introductions for them. It seems simple, but this is one of the most impactful ways we as individuals can make a difference in the industry.


Who are your female advertising icons/role models and why?

There are so many amazing women that I look up to!

I’ve always been so impressed with how Jacqueline Moore Bowles saw a need in the industry for multicultural agencies to give a voice to underserved communities, and she took action by starting her own agency. I was very fortunate to learn from her for many years.

Pepper Miller is an author and consultant. She wrote “What’s Black About It?” and “Black Still Matters.” These books were incredibly impactful to my career. It underscored for me that there were so many ways Black culture was impacting advertising and marketing at the time when we weren’t seeing that positive representation in the industry.

Lastly, I’d say Michelle Flowers. I remember hearing about her agency, Flowers Communications Group, in college. There weren’t a lot of women of color in leadership in the industry at the time, and it was so inspiring to see her out there not only representing but also seeking to develop others.