The Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations (SRS) at the University of Texas (UT) has appointed longtime agency director and Texas-born Lisa Bennett to lead The Lab, a new practice within the school designed to provide hands-on experience for students in the advertising and marketing industry.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing for this role all my life. I grew up in Austin, graduated from UT, learned from some of the best in the business, led work for a wide range of clients, and nurtured some really incredible talent over the years, ”said Bennett. “Our industry is undergoing massive change and is facing a multitude of challenges. Creating a unit designed to prepare students for the real world will be an important next stage in my career. The lab is designed to give SRS students the best possible chance to succeed in an incredibly competitive and demanding environment. “
Reportedly a program and student agency, Bennett brings extensive experience to the role, starting with Leo Burnett where she rose to executive creative director at evp for 14 years. From there, she moved from DDB West to DDB Worldwide as Managing Partner and CCO. Ten years after her tenure, she moved to North America. According to DDB, Bennett spent some time with two independent agencies, including TM Advertising in Dallas, which closed last year.
“Lisa’s impressive track record and wealth of industry knowledge will add tremendous value to The Lab’s faculty and students,” said Jay Bernhardt, dean of Moody College of Communication. “I am confident that under her leadership we will build a unique and valuable resource for students and customers.”
Bennett’s brand résumé includes several well-known brands such as Delta Air Lines, Disney, Heinz, Intel, McAfee, and McDonald’s. She has also received several prestigious awards from Cannes Lions, D&AD and Clio Awards where she was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Stan Richards – the iconic advertising character who founded The Richards Group and whose name adorns the program – praised the decision to hire Bennett and cited the school’s unique opportunity to teach students more robust skills in a more realistic environment.
“She led the life of an agency for a long time and should be able to recreate what happened in any number of agencies across the country,” he said, also noting that the pandemic has changed the dynamic. “There is vitality and energy in an agency, also due to the closeness of people to one another. We miss that a lot at the moment, but [students] will get a feel for it and it will prepare them better for it when they take their first job. “
Deb Morrison, Carolyn Silva Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising at the University of Oregon, taught Bennett when she was a UT professor from the late 1980s.
“Lisa was amazing from the start,” she said. “She is talented and persistent. At Leo Burnett, she brought a real sense of creativity to these teams and brought them back to a series of awards that transformed clients. “
According to Morrison, UT has remained a high quality program, but adding The Lab is critical to taking it to the next level and becoming more relevant within the marketing ecosystem.
“Having a student agency and that kind of experiential learning is important,” she said. “It will be wonderful to see Lisa pay attention to lively startups and more innovative thinking than just focusing on big agencies. The world of marketing is changing and it has the right tools and context to be successful. “