University of Phoenix Launches Creative Agency Review

By Patrick Coffee 

Who wants to work for a client currently under investigation by the FTC?

Today we learned that the University of Phoenix, one of the largest “for-profit colleges” that still manages to court vulnerable adults with the promise of a more lucrative career, has launched a creative agency review.

Incumbent Arnold Worldwide will not participate.

The new review comes about primarily because Arnold’s contract ended on Monday; the client issued an RFP and Arnold declined. A client spokesperson also chose not to comment on the news for this post.

The agency’s Boston office won lead creative duties on the account in May 2012. The business had been with Pereira & O’Dell for three years before that review, which was unsurprisingly precipitated by the appointment of a new CMO.

The same is true of the current round as the client named former Zuma, Monster and 1-800 CONTACTS marketing chief Joan Blackwood as its latest CMO earlier this year.

An Arnold spokesperson tells us that the agency will continue to work with the client through November while transitioning out some of the work so the org will get the support it needs.

You may have heard that UoP also currently faces some legal problems. Way back in 2013, its parent company Apollo Group warned that the agency which inexplicably accredits Phoenix as a legitimate college had put the institution “on notice” due to the fact that so very many of its students default on their loans.

In March we learned that the school has lost half of its attendees over the past five years, and its stock price dropped accordingly. UoP also recently fired more than 900 employees, and it has closed 100+ “campuses” in recent years. Incredibly, the company has not yet been sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for “predatory lending practices” like so many of its competitors–but in July Apollo announced that the FTC was investigating whether Phoenix engages in “deceptive marketing tactics” after the government launched a new initiative pressuring companies in this category to take steps ensuring a return on students’ investments.

Legal concerns aside, UoP is no joke on the advertising front: Apollo Group ranked 62nd on AdAge’s 2013 list of top U.S. advertisers, and Kantar Media says the company spent $96.5 million on media last year.

Now let us take a moment of silence to remember the millions of young Americans who currently owe thousands of dollars after earning legitimate degrees they were told that they HAD to have in order to stand out in the job market…as well as those who sent their money to University of Phoenix.

Hey, it worked for MBA Shaquille O’Neal, didn’t it?

(On a side note, Arnold has recorded some new business wins this year, most recently scoring creative AOR duties for the National Association of Realtors.)

UPDATE: Apollo Group tells us that it “intends to cooperate fully with the FTC” and that its “notice” sanction was removed in July after two years.