The Chicago Portfolio School


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The Most Helpful Book for Aspiring Advertisers

Before the Chicago Portfolio School, my academic background was in engineering and nutrition science, and my writing experience was mostly sketch comedy, short stories and asinine emails. Being accepted to attend CPS as a copywriter has been a defining moment for me, but after my acceptance, I realized that I really didn’t know anything about copywriting or advertising.

I panicked. Then, I started building a library.

I read Advertising Creative: Strategy, Copy, Design, a comprehensive textbook that discusses issues ranging from strategy, ethics, international advertising and job-hunting. It was a good intro, but ultimately too broad in it’s scope. Reading Ad-Critique was interesting; it discussed how to look at the various strengths and weaknesses of different ad campaigns, but it didn’t offer many tools for a copywriter. Where the Sucker’s Moon is an insightful narrative and great read about the ad industry and all the bureaucratic obstacles that come with it, however it speaks more to the business end of the industry than the creative side.

The seminal classic all creatives in advertising are encouraged to read is Hey Whipple, Squeeze This (and it was incredibly helpful), but it doesn’t take the top spot. The best book for aspiring copywriters is The Advertising Concept Book by Pete Barry.

The premise of this book is that no amount of production value can save a bad idea from itself and that the crux of advertising is the concept. Barry offers a comprehensive guide to being a creative in advertising by covering a multitude of topics while offering tips and strategies to create compelling advertising ideas. His lessons are fundamental and subjects include: generating strategy and ideas, tv, ambient, integrated campaigns, presenting and selling your work, and creating a student book.

While his premise is important, and informs the book’s structure, two aspects of this book raise it above the rest. First, Barry uses over 400 rough comps of award winning ads and campaigns to demonstrate the techniques he outlines in the pages. These rough comps both clarify his message and act as concrete examples for aspiring creatives. Second, the text is full of reference material like common print ad ratios and typical pixel dimensions for digital ads. These features have helped me through concepting new ideas for presentation in my classes, and have given me a short cut when thinking about how to expand campaigns beyond the realm of print. I almost always keep this book in my bag, and I recommend that other aspiring creatives do too.

Written by: CPS Blogger and 3rd Quarter Copywriter, Jon Podulka

By heather : February 04, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Stacy Randolph

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Stacy Randolph, Junior Art Director at Cossette.

Check out her advice below:

“I heard a creative director once say that if you ask your brain a question, it will come up with an answer. When you’re concepting and get stuck, ask your brain a different question and force yourself to answer it. Even if the answer is crazy, at least you have something new to work with. Try to think of as many ideas with as much variety as possible for every assignment. That way, when 90% of them get killed, you’ll not only have a better idea about what is good, but you’ll also feel less like weeping uncontrollably over your astounding failure.”

“For the art directors especially, know the creative suite basics in and out. You don’t just need to be able to make great work; you need to be able to make great work fast. A lot of times, you’re only going to have hours to create your comps and decks as opposed to the days—weeks—months you spent on them in school.”

Take a look at Stacy’s awesome work here:

Follow her on Twitter: @Stacy_Randolph

By heather : January 29, 2015

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Mother ‘Hood

Our Alumni are so talented and hilarious! Alum Kevin Egan, Associate Creative Director at Publicis came up with “The Sisterhood of Motherhood” idea for Similac (Baby Formula & Nutrition Guidance) with partner Shaun Bruce.

They know a lot of young moms and dads out there that are constantly feeling judged, which helped to create the clever video Mother ‘Hood.

Take a look at what Kevin had to say about coming up with the idea:

“We came up with the idea for creating ‘The Sisterhood of Motherhood’ knowing personally a lot of young moms and dads out there that are constantly feeling judged. That was the jump off to our idea. We knew we were sitting on something super relevant to our audience and also relevant to our brand. It was a good way of creating a judgment free supportive journey for parents, and put Similac in a position of support no matter what your parenting decisions may be. At the end of the day every parent just wants what’s best for their babies. It was a way of unifying everyone. That message seemed to resonate really well with young parents. It felt honest and spot on.”

Watch the video here:

By heather : January 27, 2015

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The Baloney is so Darn Good, it’s Featured on Modern Copywriter

4th Quarter Copywriters Adam Bedol and Kevin Tosi are featured on Modern Copywriter for their killer advertising podcast series, “Darn Good Baloney,” where they interview influential creatives working in the industry.  Talk about a good side project!

Check out their most recent interview with none other than Jason Siciliano, Founder of and Creative Director at SquareTrade.

Not caught up on all of your Baloney?

Listen to all of their podcasts here:

Like them on Facebook:

By heather : January 23, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Victoria Probert

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet Recent CPS Alum Victoria Probert, Copywriter at The Distillery Project.

Check out her advice below:

Part One:
Take notes.

In class, I wrote down everything – about agencies, life, and of course, feedback on my work. At CPS, whenever I felt anxious, my notes would always remind me, “Yes, Victoria, there is a brain in your head and it does in fact work.” It also helps having a jumpstart list of all the agencies you might be interested, and the work they produce. Start that list early, and build it up all year. When finishing your portfolio, that list will work as the first step in helping you decide what you want to do.

Part Two:
Talk to everyone.

Find out who is creating the work you love. Work you respect. Find those people and talk to them. Shoot them an email. A carrier pigeon. Traveling pants.

Find out if you know someone who knows someone who has a sister who’s brother has a friend that’s a friend of the creative you want to meet. Meet them.
Do it.
But seriously, do it.
Meet them and talk to them.
And for those of you that talk too much, remember to also listen.
Ask for advice. There’s nothing more valuable than asking someone who’s where you want to be, how they got there. It puts a face to your book, and that’s how I got my job.

Part Three:
Stop following Iggy Azalea on Twitter. Her thoughts are slowly melting your brain.

Take a look at Victoria’s sweet work here:

Follow her on Twitter: @victoriaprobert

By heather : January 22, 2015

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Curled-Up Inspirations: Creative Netflix Picks

In case you guys haven’t noticed, it’s cold in this city and leaving the in-doors can be genuinely depressing most days of the week. The temperature in Chicago changes from mildly crappy to the wind hurting my flipping face unbelievably fast. These are things I am learning in my first Chiberian January, but I digress. Anyway, my point is, if you’re not going to go outside, but need a little inspiration via Netflix, there are some great shows that shed fascinating light on different parts of the creative industry. A few suggestions:

1. Exit Through The Gift Shop

This 2010 documentary directed by anonymous British graffiti artist, Banksy, is one of my all-time favorites.  The film follows a Frenchman obsessed with his video camera trying to film a documentary on Banksy, but partway through, Banksy decides he’s not an interesting enough subject and changes the angle of the movie to him filming a documentary about the camera-obsessed Frenchman instead. Great street art, fantastic appearances from other artists, and a brilliantly delivered message about the commodification of art make “Exit Through the Gift Shop” a worthwhile watch. The documentary also won Banksy an academy award, which he did not show up to receive.

2. Syrup

The one non-documentary on the list; Syrup is a wickedly funny look at the advertising and marketing business. Although critical review on this film wasn’t stellar, I disagree with Tomato Meter on this one, because I actually really liked this movie. The satirical film, based off a best-selling book, follows a young creative prodigy who teams up with a high-powered female executive to create a brilliant soda campaign or risk losing everything. Biting satire and a purposely ridiculous take on the ad industry will make you nod in agreement or shake your head and laugh because of the bits of razor-wit and truth behind even the most over-the-top scenarios.

3. Pink Ribbons, Inc.

An interesting window into the world of “cause marketing”, Pink Ribbons, Inc. follows the massively popular branding of the breast cancer awareness ribbon and how it has affected the actual issue of cancer. With women making 80% of purchase decisions in our society, the question is posed- who is actually benefiting from the proliferation of pink awareness products? Is it the actual cause or the campaign? This is an insightful look into the way we are profiting from a problem and will definitely make you think about marketing in new ways.

4. 6 Days To Air

I don’t know if everyone is as South Park-obsessed as I am, but even casual fans will appreciate this short documentary on the creative process of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. South Park is infamously known to turn over their new episodes only a week apart, so they occasionally don’t have the next episode totally written until the day of airing. Interviews with the creators and peeks into the writing and production process show just how funny and dynamic the team who puts the show together really is. The process is fast and wacky and if anything, will instill you with confidence that even very successful people still have very crazy creative deadlines they just barely meet.

Hope you readers enjoy these suggestions and feel free to add any other creative Netflix picks you enjoy, too. Now go curl up in your blanket and relax for a little bit.  The odds are, you probably need it. 

Written by: Jillian Aramowicz – 2nd Quarter Copywriter & CPS Blogger

By heather : January 21, 2015

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Digital Portfolio Debut | Winter 2015

Chicago Portfolio School is excited to present our Digital Portfolio Debut of the hard-working recent Winter grads.

Go ahead and flip through their e-pages of campaigns and designs.

Monica Berhmann - Art Director -

Satomi Kuki - Art Director -

Sedeel Rezzo - Art Director -

Natalie Czupta - Copywriter -

Michael Kennedy - Designer -

Laura Ritche - Designer -

Samantha Stucky - Designer -

Take a look at their websites. | Get in touch. | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By heather : January 20, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Matt Bowne

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Matt Bowne, Group Creative Director at VML in Kansas City, MO.

Check out his advice below:

“Hello from VML in Kansas City, MO.”

“No doubt, you are all receiving plenty of valuable advice from former students. I’m happy to add mine to the mix as you hone your work and embark on your careers.”

“Stay passionate. Be resilient. Learn how to deal with rejection. Fight for your ideas, but know when the effort is futile. If you’re not happy, switch jobs. Rehearse your presentations, even if it’s just to your CD. Find a mentor. Don’t procrastinate. Take walks when you are stressed. Be a good person. Don’t do drugs. And stay passionate (I know, I already said that.)”

“Lastly … Attack the business. Agencies don’t hire you because they think you’ll fit in. They hire you because they see something they don’t already have. So be aggressive. Be courageous. And always be thankful that you get to do this for a living.”

“Oh, one more thing. You don’t have to wear ironic t-shirts, grow stubble, or talk about indie bands all day. Everyone is different. Be yourself and focus on the work.”

Check out his talented and awesome work here:
Follow him on Twitter: @MrMattBowne

By heather : January 15, 2015

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Cringeworthy Brand Fails of 2014

Whose mistake in 2014 do you think is the most cringe-worthy? Here is my thinking on the top five advertising “oops moments” of the past year.

1. Kurl On Mattresses
Kurl On Mattresses by means of Ogilvy India released a print ad depicting a cartoon version of Pakistani teen Malala Yousafazi being shot, landing on a Kurl On mattress, then recovering to accept a peace award. The headline just says, “bounce back”. Ha, get it? Although the ad never made it to actual print, Ogilvy posted it on Ads of the World, and, as it should, mass chaos ensued. Basically the take away is, showing 14 year olds who have survived Taliban assassination attempts getting shot in the face and recovering because of your mattress is probably not the best direction for your campaign.

2. Victoria’s Secret
Not that Victoria’s Secret is known for being the most all-encompassing when it comes to female beauty standards, but their “Perfect Body” campaign was actually worse than usual. I generally think that most times when people get angry with “body shaming”, they’re just looking for something to whine about on the Internet. (Sorry, but come on, you can’t get offended over something like a mannequin being too skinny, because it’s a damn mannequin.) However, I have to admit that Victoria’s Secret running a whole campaign based on the “perfect body” that only featured nearly identical, ridiculously proportioned models got a few well-deserved eye rolls. After a PR apology, the campaign was changed to, “A Body For Every Body”, which apparently soothed the flaring temper of the Internet, although in my opinion, I don’t see how it’s much better.

3. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters managed to out-do themselves on the hipster bullshit scale. If anyone can one-up themselves on that scale, it’s either going to be American Apparel or Urban Outfitters, but the red stained Kent State sweatshirt fail was pretty impressive, even for UO. Basically, the well-known retailer released an old sweatshirt from Kent State University covered in red splatters that look disarmingly like blood. Considering Kent State is known for a campus shooting tragedy in the 1970’s where four students lost their lives, this was a pretty low blow. The company apologized and stated that the red shirt was supposed to look vintage and sun faded (apparently it was actually faded) but leave it to Urban Outfitters to not only not think about what they’re doing but to not even know the backstory in the first place. But it’s so cool and vintage, man.

4. Digorno Pizza
I will confess, I kind of laughed at this at first, then learned about what the hashtag was supposed to mean, then immediately felt a little guilty for laughing. Here’s the story – Digorno Pizza jumped in on a trending topic on Twitter under the hashtag #WhyIStayed.  Digorno wrote, “You Had Pizza”. This doesn’t sound too bad until you learn the hashtag was supposed to promote awareness about domestic abuse and foster discussion about the difficulty of being stuck in an unhealthy relationship. I mean, as far as frozen pizza goes, Digorno is pretty good, but they’re not domestic violence good. Whoops. At least tweets are easy to delete. 

5. US Airways
My final brand fail of 2014 (and also my favorite) goes to US Airways, also for massively fucking up on Twitter. I think this fail is my favorite because I find it really, like reallllly hard to believe this was an accident for one and two, the guy who posted it didn’t even lose his job, according to the company. So what happened? In case you missed this one, a pretty normal exchange between the brand and an unhappy customer on Twitter went back and forth for a few posts, which ended in US Airways sending a tweet that said, “We welcome your feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow-up” with a picture link below. Awh, thanks US Airways. The only problem was, the picture linked to the tweet is just a girl with a fake airplane in her, um, yeah…. Apparently, the company was trying to flag an inappropriate tweet, somehow accidentally copied the URL of the picture they were attempting to monitor, and sent it out with the apology post instead. They are still maintaining that it was an honest mistake, which it may have been, but I’m just sayin’- I’ve never heard of many other companies accidentally sending porn to angry customers on Twitter.

As surprising as this may sound, not everyone who works in advertising makes the best choices in their job. I guess sometimes you just have to shake your head and accept that you’re responsible for ginormous PR disasters. If anything, we can only hope 2015 will be a year of new creative direction for some of these brands. Until next time, keep up the good work and if you’re going to take your idea in a ridiculous direction, try to avoid going as far as these guys did.

Written by: Jillian Aramowicz – 2nd Quarter Copywriter & CPS Blogger

By heather : January 13, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Felicity Pal

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet recent CPS Alum Felicity Pal, Copywriter at The Escape Pod.

Check out her advice below:

My advice for CPS students/future Mad Men & Women:

While at CPS –
“Take advantage of all the knowledge, wisdom, and insight that your talented instructors have to offer. Show your work to fresh eyes and get opinions from multiple sources, but always remember; IT’S YOUR BOOK. At the end of the day, you are the one that has to be able to explain and support your portfolio pieces, so while you should be open to critique and criticism, if you feel confident in your work, stand behind it!”

Life at an agency –
“Walking into an agency on your first day, it’s easy to be intimidated by your bosses and people who have more experience than you do. Remind yourself that you just spent a whole year and hundreds of hours training for the opportunity to let your creativity shine! Don’t let yourself get caught up in what you think is expected of you, overthink the brief, or compare yourself the people around you. Remember, they hired you for a reason.”

Working with a partner –
“My art director and I have developed a creative process that lets us build off of each other’s ideas. If I start to say something and I cut myself off because I think my idea is stupid or too crazy, he makes me finish my thought, and vice versa. Even those thoughts can be built upon or spark something in your partner’s mind.  When we both get stumped, we stand up and relocate, or we do something else to get the ideas flowing again. Some of our most original ideas came from a late night, Red Bull-fueled brainstorm as we threw a Nerf ball back and forth across the office.”

Check out Felicity’s awesome work here:

Follow her on Twitter: @FelicityPal

By heather : January 08, 2015

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