The Chicago Portfolio School


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Sarah Gatling’s Advice for a Killer Headline

“Since April the word ‘headline’ has taken on way too many forms for my brain to comprehend. The problem is, there’s infinite ways they can play out. Should the line be funny, serious, one word, a metaphor…I just didn’t know. Luckily, my flawless cohort Sarah Gatling (Copywriter, Energy BBDO) gave the term ‘headline’ a peaceful direction for our class to run with.”

“Let’s begin with the scary part of writing the first headline. I’m talking about the big, blank, endless white page we all stare at while simultaneously wondering when it’s going to swallow us whole. Fortunately, Sarah has the answer on how to conquer this frustrating fear. ‘Write anything down on the page, like hot dog. Now you know anything you write down will be better than hot dog.’ Why couldn’t I come up with that? We then dabbled in the preference of headline style. Sarah believes that no matter if a headline is serious or funny, her favorite types are those that fall under the anesis category. Anesis is a figure of addition that occurs when a concluding sentence, clause, or phrase is added to a statement, which purposely diminishes the effect of what has been previously stated. Sarah’s favorite example of this was a Jim Beam ad that reads, ‘Civil War soldiers getting their leg sawed off weren’t given a vodka cranberry.’ You always want to make sure your headlines aren’t falling flat. Give them a twist, a punch at the end, something they won’t see coming”.

“The moral of this blog is that in order to get good headlines, ‘what you really have to do is WRITE. Write all the time. Write on the train. Write when you’re waiting for the bus. Every 5 minutes is a chance to jot down thoughts and lines.’  We moan and groan about writing 100 headlines, but news flash, that’s the real world! Write more to write better.”

Written by: 2nd Quarter CW & CPS Blogger, Jessi Pelzel

Check out Sarah’s book:

By heather : August 26, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Kevin Tosi

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Kevin Tosi, Junior Copywriter at HY Connect.

Check out his advice below:

“Find the people you can work with and learn from. Learn how to work with the people you hate.”

“Don’t skip class because you think your teacher is ‘stupid’, dummy. Treat every class as the great opportunity that it is. Advertising is primarily a business of selling to stupid people. So get better at it.”

“If you don’t get a great job right away, relax. You have plenty of time to go to the agency of your dreams and create award winning work that people outside of advertising will never care about or find funny.”

“Create a great book in school because then you won’t spend all of your time at your first job worrying about not getting that cool, new book piece. Use your first job to network and learn how an agency really works.”

“Remind yourself constantly that you’re thankful you don’t have to use Excel ever again or make cold calls all day.”

“Oh. And use your boss’s office when he’s out of town on vacation so people think you have an actual office for What’s in my Office Thursday.”

Check out Kevin’s talented portfolio here:

By heather : August 20, 2015

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Advertising in the World of Streaming (i.e. Binging)

An easy way for me to make a lazy Sunday even lazier is the introduction of a streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime or the service formerly known as Hulu Plus. What could be a day entirely dedicated to completing vague goals in a vague manner transforms into a day of complete and total slovenly wastefulness, all thanks to the phenomenon known as binge- watching. However, for a week or so last month, it seemed like our collective binging bliss would be coming to an end.

On June 1st of this year, there were reports of Netflix testing the idea of running pre-roll from advertisers before and after programs. This lead the internet & social media into a frenzy, because it’s the internet & social media. Answers were demanded and we received them, relatively quickly at that. Word came down that while pre-roll advertisements were indeed being tested, they were ads that were created internally, meant to promote Netflix’s original programming. The internet let out a collective sigh of relief.

Reed Hastings doubled down on the fact that he is adamant about not featuring spots by advertisers on his service. With that in mind, lets take a look at the last few years for Netflix. In July of 2011, Netflix took the cost of a 1 DVD-at-a-time and streaming subscription from $9.99 a month to $14.99, causing nationwide riots that this country had never seen before or since. This caused the company to take a hit to both it’s stock price and it’s perception in customer’s eyes. In May 2014, prices increased again to $8.99. Their stock and perception took yet another hit.

In February of this year, they borrowed one billion dollars in an effort to sustain the 320 hours of original content they planned to roll out this year and beyond. At some point Netflix is going to run out of sources of revenue, but not run out of customer and audience demand. And this is where I think advertisers become inevitable and where I get worried.

As someone who also subscribes to Hulu (baller right?) I’ve seen the effects of implementing advertising into a streaming service such as Netflix. Hulu has ads not only for their own content, but also pre-roll of advertisers. These ads are timed at roughly similar intervals as a show that’s televised, however it’s the variety that’s lacking. Any given program will have 2 or 3 ads played per ad block, and these are typically no different than any pre-roll seen on YouTube.

All in all, I don’t find advertisements to be devastating to a service like Netflix. However, they do prove to be legitimately distracting during the binge-watch experience, and causes one to consider their waste of a day. And that, truly, would be the the most devastating thing of all.

Written by Rick Bongorno, 3rd Quarter Copywriter & CPS Blogger.

By heather : August 17, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Ian Todd

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet recent CPS Alum Ian Todd, Art Director Intern at 180LA…in LA.

Check out his advice below:

“Work hard. It’s easy to skip class or half-ass your comps when you’re in a bit of a bind, but you’re only hurting yourself. Take full advantage of your instructors, they’re there to help YOU.”

“Keep pushing and keep revising, don’t abandon a project just because it’s not clicking right away. It’s good practice for the real world. Write down 50 different ideas and then write down 50 more. Pick a couple you like and then repeat. Push your ideas to the point that you know no one will come in with any idea like yours. Think differently.”

“Most of all, enjoy the city and make time for fun, things only get busier. Oh, and Einstein’s has pretty good Wi-Fi.”

Take a look at Ian’s book here:

By heather : August 06, 2015

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Meet Fran Palmer: CPS User Experience Instructor & Art Director at FCB

“Meet the gorgeous and talented Fran Palmer, an Art Director at FCB who likes her coffee Americano and her day’s light hearted. Fran studied graphic design in college and immediately tackled countless freelance projects through the Creative Circle. She built up an impressive amount of “ad world” connections during this time, which paved the way to FCB. I asked Fran what her first day at FCB was like and her response was simply, “easy”. She went on to explain how her buddy from Sapient Nitro sent her an edible arrangement on her first day so she was immediately pinned as “that girl”. Needless to say, the embarrassing “congratulations” made for a memorable first day and a running joke in the office.”

“Fran fell in love with FCB because it challenges her every day. Her job entails a lot of critical thinking with a heavy dose of humor. Fran believes that you have to be silly before you can get serious! She is constantly working along side of UX designers to create better solutions based on human resource interactions. Fran explains, ‘I make sure that not only my work is aligned to the style guide of the client, but also help other people on my team make sure they’re doing so as well’.”

“We both agreed that out of all the brainstorming tactics, the number one way to break through your creative block is by sipping on a cold, tall beer and possibly using oversized sticky notes to cover the walls you stand in. Some of the best ideas come from the strangest insights or triggers. Fran talked about the craziest idea she had ever heard in the ad world and it turned out to be a Cannes Lion winner. This was the Inactivity Tracker, which was a digital campaign! All in all, remember these three words and you’ll do just fine. Late. Night. Beer.”

Written by: Jessi Pelzel, 2nd Quarter CW & CPS Blogger

Take a look at Fran’s talented portfolio:

By heather : August 03, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Amanda Burger

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet recent CPS alum Amanda Burger, Freelance Copywriter at Leo Burnett.

Check out her advice below:

“Well let’s see here. First off, you really gotta make school your THING for the year. I’m not just talking about working hard—I’m talking about nerding out over advertising as a whole. Immerse yourself in the industry—keep up with Adweek, Cannes, etc. Oh—and make Modern Copywriter your bible (or torah, LOLZ.) Looking at student ads helped me so, so much as far as figuring out what a good student book should look like.”

“Also—for all you writers out there, never underestimate the beauty of a good headline. LEARN TO WRITE THEM. Even though today’s world is about digital, a banner ad is basically just a glorified print ad. Which means headlines.”

“Speaking of digital, put that in your book.”

“And last but not least, be resourceful. CPS is a bucket of talent, and it’s up to you to make the most of that. Did your AD back out? Ask a designer to help! Figure out what people are good at and get them to help you. After all, them helping you = them helping themselves. Oh, and be nice—because ain’t nobody gonna help you unless you nice.”

Check out her ah-mazing portfolio here:

By heather : July 30, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Rebecca Ray

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Rebecca Ray, Designer at Critical Mass.

Check out her advice below:

“Build a portfolio of work that not only represents you, but also shows range. Working on projects that you are passionate about is a great talking point, and your heart will shine through in these pieces. But never stop pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, whether that means trying out a new aesthetic or working on something you know absolutely nothing about. You’ll come out with a diverse book that’s unexpectedly smart and beautiful (and you’ll learn some pretty cool shit along the way).”

“When looking for a job, take every interview you can get. Getting comfortable talking about your work is invaluable, because showing your personality is just as important as your book itself. After all, you’ll probably be drinking lots of beer together in the future, and who wants to do that with a Debbie downer?”

Check out her beautifully talented book here:

By heather : July 23, 2015

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Top 5 CPS Takeaways from a Pal

I had the pleasure of interviewing not only a good friend of mine, but also a kickass CPS alum who is now a copywriter at The Escape Pod.

Meet Felicity Pal. Like all of us, she was once a nervous and anxious creative roaming the halls we’ve all gotten to know all too well. It’s no secret that every creative at CPS wants to make a baby. By that I mean a beautiful portfolio that will take a lot of work, but in time, will grow to be big and strong.

I asked Felicity what her top five CPS takeaways were and her answers were all but disappointing.

First things first, “Write tons of lines. Some days your best one will be your first one you write, and other days it will be the last one on the list.”

Instructors tell us that our first line will never be the one we use, but once you do research on a brand and can describe it with only adjectives, the writing becomes easier and simpler. But of course, this takes practice!

Felicity believes in “Being open to critique and criticism”. Basically, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

We should all “Be prepared to explain our campaigns. If you’re a CW know why the AD picked the color pallet they did. If you’re an AD, know why your CW established the tone they did.”

Even if you’re not specifically contributing to certain aspects of the work, any questions pertaining to your campaign should be able to be answered by its many “owners.”

The fourth takeaway - “Don’t shoot your partner’s ideas down. Instead, try to build upon each other’s ideas and push one another to think in areas you wouldn’t naturally.”

The most vital piece of information Felicity stressed was to be confident in our campaigns. After all, our pieces are a representation of who we are and we have a responsibility to stand up for what we’ve created. If we are hesitant to stand up for our work, then it needs a rework!

Check out her stunning portfolio below!


Written by: Jessi Pelzel, 2nd Quarter CW + CPS Blogger

By heather : July 20, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Elisa Sandoval

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Elisa Sandoval, Designer at gyro.

Check out her advice below:

“Have a unique voice and passion for projects in your portfolio. Not only is your portfolio a demonstration of what you can do but also work you want to do in the future. Think about what you like doing or want to specialize in and make that come across when you put work in your portfolio.”

“Once you start working in agencies and firms you will be expected to be able to make anything and everything in very little time so keep learning and exploring your craft. Always be open to advice and direction from senior creatives but also be able to think for yourself. If you feel something in a project should go in another direction speak up.”

Take a look at her beautiful work:

By heather : July 16, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Marlo Habeeb

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum, Marlo Habeeb, Junior Copywriter at Epsilon in San Fran.

Check out her advice below:

“Always think of the big picture. That’s the best thing I got from CPS — being able to really use my imagination and go wherever the f-ck I wanted with a campaign. It may not be as easy to do so in the real world, but the thought process is invaluable.”

“Confidence is a necessity. Always take pride in your work and always back it up. 98% of creative directors say they would rather hire someone with confidence than someone with a better resumé who lacks it. I also just made that fact up, but I’m sure you believed it because I typed it with confidence.”

“Most importantly, if you don’t feel like you are learning or evolving where you are, make a change. It’s easier to stay inspired when you think you’ll be a better person tomorrow than you are today.”

*Marlo is photographed in one of the Epsilon hallways. Their employees designed their own skateboards for the office and put them up there. They all agree its super tight.

Take a look at her book:

By heather : July 09, 2015

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