180LA Goes Back to School in Latest University of Phoenix Spot

By Erik Oster 

Back in February, 180LA debuted its first work for University of Phoenix following winning creative duties in a review launched last September. With the fall semester now on the horizon, 180LA launched its newest work for the for-profit college network.

The 60-second spot, entitled “Still I Rise” uses the Maya Angelou poem of the same name (Angelou seems to be getting her share of love from the ad industry lately) to help tell the story of Gail Marquis, a one-time Olympic basketball player (a member of the USA Basketball National Team at the 1976 Olympics) who went on to become a Wall Street executive and earner her MBA with the University of Phoenix in 2006.

Now Marquis is Director of Community Outreach for the School of Business and the Business Development Incubator at New Jersey City University. In the spot, she’s shown at work, grinding it out with textbooks and computer late at night and marching in a gay rights parade with  her wife, Audrey Smaltz, former Ebony Fashion Fair Commentator and CEO/founder of The Ground Crew, and delivering a commencement address quoting Angelou’s poem.

Whether all this is just effective advertising or manipulative appropriation of the message behind Angelou’s poem in service of a somewhat dubious for-profit institution may depend on viewers’ perspective but Marquis is certainly an inspiring figure to align with the university. “Still I Rise” in effect delivers a similar message as its predecessor, emphasizing the hard work of its students, often juggling a career at the same time as they earn their degree, with perhaps a bit more emphasis at attracting new students with this most recent installment. That would only make sense, as the spot should garner its fair share of views when it airs during NBC’s broadcast of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

As a World Champion athlete, I know just how much hard work and dedication go into achieving your dreams – whether it be in sports, education, career or in a relationship,” Marquis said in a statement. “Like many of my fellow athletes, my dreams didn’t end with basketball. I took my determination to Wall Street, where after decades of success, I still wanted more. Accomplishing my educational goals has enabled me to teach other students what it takes to forge their own path to greatness.”

“Gail Marquis shares the same traits found in so many University of Phoenix students – grit and determination. They are driven to overcome obstacles and willing to put in the hard work required to get a higher education, often while raising a family or working a full-time job,” added Timothy P. Slottow, president of University of Phoenix. “University of Phoenix believes in the power of a college degree to change the lives of students, their families and future generations. That is why we work tirelessly to support working adults and diverse students as they pursue a career-relevant higher education.”

Agency: 180LA

Chief Creative Officer: William Gelner
Executive Creative Directors: Eduardo Marques & Rafael Rizuto Creative Director: Wilson Mateos
Copywriter: Josh Hacohen
Art Director: Karine Grigorian
Head of Integrated Production: Natasha Wellesley
Executive Producer: Calleen Colburn
Group Brand Director: Suzy Sammons
Brand Director: Jillian Nalty
Brand Manager: Nicole Leeds
Executive Strategy Director: Kasi Bruno
Strategic Planner: Tess McGourty
Director of Business Affairs: Loretta Zolliecoffer
Business Affairs Manager: Angel Cielo

Production Co: Stink USA
Managing Director: Jeff Baron
Director: Eliot Rausch
DP: Chayse Irvin
Executive Producer: Fran McGivern
Line Producer: Jason Manz

Casting Company: Beth Melsky Shoot Location: NY, NY
Shoot Date: 7/23-7/24, 2016

Editorial Company: Exile
Editor: Conor O’Neill
Executive Producer: CL Weaver
Producer: Michael Miller Assistant Editor: Rex Lowry

Completion/Special Effects
Completion/Special Effects: The Mill LA
Managing Director: Rani Melendez
EP: Leighton Greer
Producer: Alex Bader
Production Coordinator: Sardor Kaziyev
Shoot Supervisor: Gavin Wellsman, Eric Pascarelli
Lead 2D: John Shirley
2D Artists: Sam Evenson, Jeff Langlois, Alex Candlish
Matte Painter: Itai Muller
Designers: Greg Park, Clare Carrellas
Color EP: Thatcher Peterson
Color Producer: Diane Valera
Color Coordinator: Robert Cohen
Colorist: Greg Reese

Recording Mix
Recording Studio: Eleven
Mixer: Jeff Payne
Assistant Mixer: AJ Murillo, Jordan Meltzer
Executive Producer: Suzanne Hollingshead
Producer: Melissa Elston

Music: Walker
Executive Producer: Sara Matarazzo
Producer: Ieva Berberian
Music Composer: Miguel Coiz

Sound Design: Brian Emrich