The shutdown of the Californian Pennysaver this past weekend ousted thousands of restaurants, auto care shops, hair salons, dry cleaners, and countless other small businesses from their community-oriented discount efforts. When the most resounding fixture in regional marketing closed their doors for the final time last Friday evening, ma and pa shops lost their primary medium to engage offline with the local public. With the company reaching 11 million people and reportedly making over $1 million in ad revenue every week, business owners and Pennysaver employees were sent reeling by the closure. But it didn’t blindside everyone.

With print classified ads losing revenue in the past few years, the Pennysaver desistance didn’t surprise media analysts. And Pennysaver’s lender, OpenGate Capital, the company that famously acquired TV Guide for $1, has a plainspoken track record of buying out “underperforming” businesses.

Classified advertising is losing ground. But there’s an easy way to advertise at no cost:

OpenGate’s acquisition of one of the biggest, if not the biggest, advertising publications in the state only reaffirms what we knew — online media consumption surpassed print media consumption. People want to browse deals at their leisure and convenience. They don’t want an advertiser jabbing at them through their mailbox. Providing specials and discounts specifically for local consumers didn’t die out, but delivering them through snail mail in a spam-like fashion did.

Our sister company, The Lucky Deal, is a fitting alternative to Pennysaver. It’s an online platform where you can freely post your discounts and coupons; no hassles along the way. Once you have an account, you can share as many deals as you like. All deals are geared towards a locality of your choosing. Meaning your deal will most prominently show up on web browsers’ search results in tandem with the area where the coupon can be redeemed. Strengthen your business’ online marketing and take advantage of this low-stakes, free service today.

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With the Google update, you’ll see noticeable change in search result indexing.

At a hearty sixty percent, mobile device usage accounts for the majority of time spent on digital media consumption. Last year mobile app and web usage grew by fifty-two percent and seventeen percent, respectively, with desktop usage hardly growing. More than half of all time spent on the web is from mobile device users. With that, for the first time ever, time spent online with mobile devices exceeded time spent online with desktop devices. There are now more mobile web users than desktop web users — smart phones and tablets are now the primary means upon which to access the Internet. With you and almost half the world using the Internet at any given time, the biggest mobile search provider and mobile platform provider, Google, will be modifying its web indexing accordingly, “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change …will have a significant impact in our search results.”

Google wants your site to be easily accessible on any device.

Although this Google update applies mostly to mobile search queries, it’s a high-impact change. Some say it’s going to have more clout than the Panda or Penguin algorithms. With the surge of mobile web usage, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree with the prediction — meaning all businesses with an online presence should adjust to the upcoming Google update. Here are three main features accompanying the change:

  1. Page-to-page assessments: web crawler bots will now assess a website’s mobile-friendliness on a page-to-page basis. It’ll rank higher those pages that are optimized. No penalties come as consequence from non-optimized pages, but it’d do nothing but better your rankings to make your entire site compatible for mobile devices.
  2. Dynamic, real-time change: a spokesperson tells that the Google update’s algorithm will score and index your site’s changes anytime on April 21st and after. So you don’t have to convert your site to a mobile-friendly one by the 21st. As soon as Google picks up on your site’s changes, your site will benefit from the update.
  3. Sites partnered with an Android app will rank differently: already set in motion, search queries that have an Android app associated with it will now appear more prominently in search results, given the device-user has the app installed and is signed into the app.

Google provides guidelines and tips on how to make your website mobile friendly. To ensure there are no problems with your website’s mobile accessibility, Google recommends using Google Webmaster Tools. If you have an Android app partnered with your site, make sure to deeplink it, index it, and verify your app’s site to Google Play. To outplay your competition, get ahead of this Google update and start optimizing your site now. If you need help doing so, to receive a free web evaluation, contact us.

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How often do you see someone post information promoting their product or themselves closing with #shamelessplug? I’m sure we have seen it plenty of times by now. Type “#shamelessplug” in your search engine on Instagram, and 28,216 posts come up using that hashtag. Here is one from today that we found with a user’s business card: “Boom #official. Go ahead and hit me up for all your printer/printing needs. #shamelessplug.” A shameless plug is a term popularly known on the Internet for when someone includes extra information that is off-topic to advance their own selfish interests. The icing on the cake is that this person willingly admits that their act was selfish, and that they have no shame. So, calling something a “shameless plug” practically allows you to spam anyone that you want without any guilt whatsoever. Has this only been a recent trend? We don’t think so.

Trending since 1925

The shameless plug has been trending ever since TV shows and films started using product placements in their storylines. Billions of dollars have been invested into this “shameless plug” marketing strategy. The first product placement in cinema can be awarded to the film “The Lost World” in 1925. The Corona Typewriter appeared in the film per the agreement between the company and First National Pictures, a movie studio. Product placements can be found prior to filmmaking, but their overwhelming presence didn’t become apparent until then. Cracked.com gives their top 10 shameless plugs for product placements here.

Celebrity endorsement

With the growth of social media, companies have begun using celebrities as their platform for marketing. TheFreeLibrary.com says that “this new type of celebrity endorsement–and its lack of clarity–is drawing the attention of federal officials, who have been trying to regulate product placement in TV shows, movies, and in other media for decades.” The issue now is public trust. Are celebrities giving their opinions or is this paid advertising? Do these celebrities actually use these products, or are they just saying that they do? Justin Bieber tweeted that he was buying flowers for his mom on Mother’s Day from a specific flower company. Did he actually buy flowers? Was it because he wanted to? Or was he paid for it? Read more up on this topic here.

How far is too far with the shameless plug?

What is considered appropriate advertising? How can we adjust accordingly and do what’s best for the interests of companies and customers? This is definitely an issue that should be discussed. At what point do our opinions and suggestions become void and invalid? If there is an overload of shameless plugs, people disengage and stop listening. If people feel like you are spamming them, they will no longer trust your opinion. This could lead to everyone shouting what they think is best and to people never getting what they really need. Does this sound familiar to you? Are we already heading in that direction? Can we turn back? Should we? Or is it too late?

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Unlike most fields, the creative business of advertising typically does not welcome newcomers who have yet to prove themselves. Advertising portfolios, or as many in the industry refer to as “books,” are considered a precursor for any rising copywriter or designer looking to get an interview at one of the top advertising agencies. Above all else, copywriting and design portfolios are considered proof that you can think well and excel creatively. Based on an ad school’s overall body of work, bang-for-your-buck tuition costs and quality of teachers, we have listed below the best advertising schools and the best portfolio schools in the United States.

The Miami Ad School

With locations in Miami, Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco, the prestigious Miami Ad School tops just about any list of best advertising schools. Boasting an international network of Miami Ad School alums and raking in advertising awards year after year, it should come as no surprise why this portfolio school is considered the Harvard of ad schools. Having this on your résumé, while not necessarily a rite of passage, should help you get in the door.

Yearly tuition: $17,400

The Creative Circus

Located near Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, The Creative Circus is a top portfolio school with an incredible job placement rate of 98.53% over the last year alone. Some would argue that, in a conversation of best advertising schools, The Creative Circus carries the same weight as the Miami Ad School on any résumé and for a cheaper price. The portfolio-focused ad school has regularly landed students at top shops like Leo Burnett, FCB and DDB.

Yearly tuition: $16,879.50

VCU Brandcenter

An extension of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business program, the VCU Brandcenter is another popular choice for east-coasters looking for a top portfolio school. The ad school has a recent 70% placement rate, with alums landing at powerhouse ad agencies like Wieden+Kennedy and R/GA. Industry vet Helayne Spivak, formerly the Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, is the ad achool’s most recent hire as program director.

Yearly Tuition: $19,500 (plus university fees)

Savannah College of Art and Design

A huge reason why Georgia is a leading state for portfolio schools is because of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCADD). With over 40 options for art majors and north of 60 options for minors, SCADD has something for every kind of visionary. The school has a 93% job placement rate for undergraduate and masters students combined for 2014, within 10 months of graduation. Its campuses are located in Atlanta and Savannah, with an online eLearning curriculum available to faraway students.

Yearly Tuition: $33,795

San Diego Portfolio Studio

The San Diego Portfolio Studio is quickly establishing itself as one of the best portfolio schools on the West Coast. In its infancy, the young ad school helped its students earn a whopping 32 Addy awards, including the 2014 Best in Show Addy Award. The San Diego Portfolio School has also attracted top agency talent, with instructors from Vitro among others. SDPS currently offers a course co-taught by a copywriter and art director from the same agency.

Tuition: $1,995 (6th month workshop)

Art Center College of Design

Among the best advertising schools with a focus on portfolio development, Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design has two beautiful California campuses for students to choose from with the naturalistic San Rafael Hills and Downtown Pasadena campuses. A recent inductee to the Intel Design School Network, the design school will be focusing some new work on innovations in wearable technology. It’s hard to find a better West Coast portfolio school for any designer.

Yearly Tuition: $18,665 (undergrad)

Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations

UT-Austin’s Stan Richards School is a new addition to the Moody School of Communication that adds some fresh hype to the university’s renowned business program. The school is honoring advertising mogul Stan Richards decades after he built the flourishing ad agency The Richards Group. The school’s Center for Brand Research is also an incredible source for students to study a collection of advertisements and agency briefs.

Yearly Tuition: Unknown

Brainco | The Minneapolis School of Advertising

The Minneapolis School of Advertising, commonly referred to as Brainco, puts a greater focus on small classes and tight-knit circles to manufacture quality copywriter, UX and designer portfolios. Founded by Creative Director Ed Prentiss, Brainco is among the first portfolio schools to offer an online portfolio workshop open to students across the country. Many full-time students find the curriculum to be complementary to their work schedule as classes typically take place at night.

Tuition: $1,400 (for in-class, per quarter)

Portfolio Center

This accredited Atlanta portfolio school declares an average job placement rate of 97-100% in under 3 months after graduation. Among the few notable portfolio schools mentioned by Luke Sullivan in the famed Hey Whipple, Squeeze This book, the Portfolio Center has a variety of specialized classes for every advertising mind. Copywriters get to take a course in Guerilla & Experiential Concepts, while digital media majors can enjoy a class devoted entirely to logo design.

Yearly Tuition: $34,539

Chicago Portfolio School

Located in the heart of Chicago, The Chicago Portfolio School is an ideal ad school destination for anyone serious about working at an agency. With a collection of alumni who now work at the likes of Ogilvy, FCB and David & Goliath, the portfolio school can be credited as a launching pad for many careers. The school would prefer to be known as “an idea school” over a design school or advertising school, which is designed to present more possibilities for students who want to offer solutions for other industries along their career path.

Yearly Tuition: $16,200

Austin Creative Department

Another Texas portfolio school that is a cheaper alternative to the traditional advertising school is the Austin Creative Department. Founded in 2011 by GSD&M Creative Director Will Chau, the ad school emphasizes real-world advertising principles, focusing on solving real ad agency briefings and training for client presentation skills. The school’s instructors are all industry professionals and courses are offered to students individually instead of by quarter.

Tuition: $750 per course

BYU Adlab

This one-of-a-kind advertising agency is a miracle unto itself. The first “student run, professionally mentored” ad agency was conceived from an idea written on a napkin. The Utah agency has already worked with such brands as Holiday Inn, Nike and EA Games. What makes this one of the best advertising schools is the promise to empower its students to run their own agency, with all positions filled. As one of the best portfolio schools, the ability to work directly with big brands is invaluable experience that can crush the spec competition.

Yearly Tuition: Unknown

More Options for Ad Schools in the Future?

When we recompile this list in a few years, we hope to see more affordable options appear on our list for best advertising schools and best portfolio schools. The fact that so many newcomers in the last decade have been able to provide a similar learning platform at a bargain cost is proof that these institutions don’t need to be so expensive in order to be successful. Attracting great minds should be a priority. Irrespective of this reality, in an industry that has such limited educational options available, the growth of more ad portfolio schools and online ad schools can only work to give these great minds more opportunity with their careers.

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Privacy and social media somehow always end up in the same conversation these days. From professional athletes foolishly tweeting offensive remarks to corporate brands saving face after a social media fumble, social content is generally met with varying opinions on open-source platforms like Twitter. In the world of Facebook, the social user’s engagement experience is limited to his or her network of friends (unless hash-tags are used).

But a burgeoning issue for Facebook privacy involves advertisers and the information that we share with them. Unfortunately, the new Facebook privacy guidelines neglect to address a popular concern for granting advertisers unfettered access to millions of Facebook user profiles. And instead, the ever-popular social media platform remains a portal to a dystopian, Orwellian world dominated by big brother. It won’t be long before Facebook users are literally swimming in targeted ads.

Facebook privacy guidelines have hardly changed. It’s the presentation that is different. We should all take note of that.

The reality is that no matter how many times Facebook privacy rules change, Facebook will take the strategic angle of downplaying surveillance advertising in favor of making sure you are safe within your own network of friends. Any Facebook privacy “changes” are only illusory – a fact that is supported by Facebook’s ironic copy campaign which declares “You’re in Charge.” The red herring of it all is that Facebook wants you to care about which of your friends can see what posts you make because this lets users feel like as if they’re in control. Yet, Facebook doesn’t answer to your Facebook friends! They prefer to mingle with advertisers who have deep pockets. And thus, you do not (and will not) have the right to prevent advertisers from accessing your personal information. Creepy, invasive native ads will only continue to get creepier.

For advertisers, Facebook is a playground. Generating leads and geo-targeting customers is a piece of cake – and even our agency takes advantage of this sometimes. The issue, however, is not advertising itself. Instead, the larger issue is that advertisers know us better than our own Facebook friends. They latch on to our social personas and follow us around the interwebs, monitoring our habits for commerce and leaning over our shoulder when we read about the local weather. Advertisers are simply becoming too powerful and too intelligent. But it’s not just a Facebook problem. It’s a social media problem. It’s institutional. And every PPC platform on the internet is in on it.

An overhaul of the system might be in order before Facebook Privacy becomes a big problem.

If Mark Zuckerberg wants to be a leader in meaningful social media privacy protection, he should confront Facebook privacy guidelines head-on by offering users a “Do Not Track” feature, similar to what Mozilla Firefox has adopted. It’s the right thing to do. This probably all sounds psychotic and paranoid. But then again, we’re an ad agency. A protected consumer is in the best interest in the long run for our clients and our industry. Up until now, the only true protection against advertisers users have is to opt out of advertising from specific brands by selecting “Hide all ads from x brand” or “I don’t want to see this.”

Other than that, instead of the annual Facebook privacy update from corporate, a more useful disclaimer should liken to the labels we see on cigarette boxes and read something like: “Warning: The social network you are about to join will invade your privacy by funneling thousands of advertisers with more information about yourself than most of your friends would know. They’ll have more dirt on you than the NSA. Good luck.”

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If you work in advertising, you know that your agency is never working with just one client at any given time (or you wouldn’t be an agency). The ability to switch gears on-demand from client to client requires that you constantly tailor your marketing strategies to a different target audience. And with each client, there is an expectation that the advertiser must address the target audience through the constant generation of creative ideas. While an idea can come from anyone, understanding what works through daily trial and error only makes you better.

Some ad agencies work with only a certain type of client, such as a pharmaceutical agency. But the advertisers that operate like Promotion LA tend to have a highly diverse clientele in areas ranging from fine dining and landscape architecture to fitness and cosmetics. This experience preparing creative ideas for a wide range of industries makes Promotion LA better prepared to handle whatever challenges come our way.

The Flow of Creative Ideas Can Usually Permeate From Medium to Medium.

In the case of commercial director Theodore Melfi, working with many unique brand campaigns helped prepare him for directing his first feature film. Melfi compares the practice of commercial directing with getting creative exercise, saying that directing commercials is “the best film gym in the world.” His critically-acclaimed film St. Vincent recently played at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival and stars Bill Murray.

Melfi credits his success story to constantly working on creative ideas. The 30-second “short films” give Melfi the ability to focus on simple ideas in a variety of ways. Melfi further elaborated that because he filmed, dogs, fight scenes, stunts and various technical setups while filming commercials, there was seemingly nothing he wasn’t prepared for.

While Melfi’s story is unique, many filmmakers like David Fincher and Spike Jonze got their start directing commercials for big brands. For advertising agencies, the last decade has seen a surge in digital advertising, meaning that advertisers had to transition their talents from traditional media into floating ads, viral videos and mobile applications. Inspiration for creative ideas can come from a book you’ve read, a story you heard on the news or a real-life occurrence. In the case of advertisers, the more people we do work for, the better equipped we are to offer creative ideas for our newest client. While it is never good to have too many clients, having the right amount with a strong mix of diversity prepares your agency for any situation.

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