L.A. Gets a New Ad School

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Southern California has a new ad school.

L.A.'s Loyola Marymount University has partnered with non-profit ad club thinkLA to launch The Institute of Modern Marketing, also known as the mSchool.

The school is launching with a 14-week pilot course that starts today, called "The Future Will Not Be Televised: The New World of Branding and Advertising." It promises a unique approach from other ad programs, with a focus on digital training, designed to prep next-gen ad talent to hit the ground running and shorten the job training cycle.

The school will partner with both agencies and tech companies in the region, including Google, Facebook and local video game studios to tailor course content. For example, a session on Google analytics could be held at a Google office, and led by someone from the company. Or if that week's session is about social media, Facebook would be pulled in, said Andy Rohm, an associate professor of marketing at LMU. The course will also focus on the nuts and bolts of digital advertising, including SEO, social media and interactive skills. The students will also help set up mSchool's web and social media presence.

Students will be regularly taken out of the classroom, spending half their time at L.A. agencies, media companies and marketers, said Ignited president Eric Johnson, one of the school's instructors and co-president of thinkLA. "This will provide real-life content, and also help pave the way for internships," he said.

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson
Other instructors will include veteran ad talents, like Deutsch L.A. partner and chief digital officer Winston Binch and TBWA/Chiat/Day L.A. ECD Patrick O'Neill. About 20 students were selected from the LMU undergraduate body to take part in the inaugural course, which will count towards their overall degree.

"One unique component of the program is that we are tapping into our undergraduate student body," said Mr. Rohm. Most ad schools don't do that, preferring to focus on graduate-level students or higher. "We want to capture the 21- and 22-year-olds," he added.

Perhaps more important, "we are trying to address a fundamental problem of the marketing world," said Mr. Johnson. "The world is changing and academic institutions haven't been able to keep delivering a steady supply of talent that can feed agencies and brands."

The eventual plan is to expand the mSchool into a two-year course next fall, offered to undergraduates. Plans for a graduate degree and an executive program are also underway, with students eventually graduating with a degree in modern marketing.

ThinkLA began research on a program like this about a year ago, noticing that many agencies out there no longer provide training programs to new staffers the way they used to. Classes will cover account planning and research, social media, marketing plan creation, developing a core creative idea, creative content development, digital advertising and measurement.

Andy Rohm
Andy Rohm

"We're going to be dealing with the whole practice of marketing and advertising," said Mr. Johnson. Along with its digital focus, the program will offer the entire range of marketing skills, from product development to creative to content creation to account management to pitching. And it will be attached to the university, adding a level of academic rigor unlike other schools, Mr. Rohm believes. Moreover, those who graduate from the full program will get a full degree, not just certification. The mSchool's offerings as a whole, the founders believe, make for a more well-rounded approach to advertising education that sets it apart from other top schools like VCU, BDW, Miami Ad School and Art Center. "What those schools have done is very successful," said Mr. Johnson. "We're building on what they've done."