Advertising (BA)

Understanding advertising theory is good; designing award-winning campaigns for real businesses and clients is better. You’ll do both in Columbia College Chicago’s Advertising BA program. You’ll work with real clients—from local nonprofits to national brands—and finish an internship (or two) in one of the major advertising centers in the country.

Learn from faculty members who have worked with Apple, Nike, Calvin Klein, Samsung, McDonald’s, Motorola, Kraft, Amazon, and others. Working closely with these industry-leading professors and your talented peers, you’ll analyze consumer behavior through creative research techniques, develop amazing concepts, execute award-winning campaigns with cutting-edge art direction and copywriting, and master the art of a perfectly timed Tweet or Snapchat story.

Your internship experience and professional portfolio may help you land a job as an account manager, copywriter, art director, brand manager, content strategist, content creator, media planner, project manager, or general marketing and advertising pro.

Advertising and PR students present their final projects



All Advertising majors select one of three concentrations:

Art Direction

In this concentration, you’ll learn how to develop concepts from the initial idea to the final product, create aesthetically pleasing typographic and design elements for both print and digital campaigns, and work with copywriters, photographers, and video producers to get a job done—and done right.


Copywriters are the content writers and creators who come up with the catchy line, phrase, or concept that connects an audience with a product. You’ll learn how to write copy for different platforms, such as innovative digital content, highly shareable branded videos and commercials, memorable out-of-home advertising, highly involved in-store activations, and amazing branded events and experiences.


This concentration is for students who want to manage the ad development process and keep an eye on the brand business opportunities and the consumer insights discovered via creative consumer psychology research. This concentration involves brand management, media planning, consumer insights, and more.

In the Classroom

What to Expect Your First Year

Dive into advertising practice your very first semester with Introduction to Advertising, a class that gives you the chance to create a hypothetical mini-ad campaign for brands such as Starbucks or the Red Cross. In Consumer Behavior, you’ll learn about the ways people consume products. You’ll also learn the practical value of shopper observation, in-home interviewing, creative focus groups, and more. Depending on your interests, you might take Advertising Copywriting, a class that teaches you how to craft creative ad copy for everything from innovative digital ads to social media posts. Or if you’re an art director, you’ll further hone your design skills by taking Survey of Typography.

What to Expect Your Last Year

Your internships and courses prepare you for your advertising career. In your final semesters, we’ll help you land a second internship, and you’ll engage in strategic networking, develop your résumé and portfolio in our Ad Portfolio course, and enroll in skill-sharpening electives like Account Executive/Brand Manager, Brand Strategy, and Art Director/Copywriter Team. Finally, you’ll contribute to a team in one of the Advertising capstone courses, such as Agency or our award-winning Campaign Practicum class.

Advertising Capstone

These Advertising capstone courses are signature experiences for our majors. You’ll work with real clients on real assignments, which means you’ll generate reports, conduct research, develop strategies, write media plans, design and pitch concepts, produce integrated 360 campaigns, and participate in client meetings. Our capstone course teaches you how to thrive in an advertising agency, an in-house marketing department, or a specialty consultancy as both a team member and a specialist in account management, strategy, creative, media, project management, or production.

You can then use the campaign elements from your capstone courses as samples for your professional portfolio. Since you’ve already worked with clients, you can interview for the job you want with the examples and experience employers look for.

See students work with real clients in their Agency class:

Outside the Classroom

Chicago as Our Classroom

We take full advantage of our proximity to Chicago’s thriving advertising industry by regularly visiting major agencies like Leo Burnett, Digitas, Energy BBDO, Havas, and Ogilvy & Mather.

Advertising class on a field trip to local ad firm

New York City as Our Classroom

Consider taking advantage of our J-term course, Advertising in NYC. Explore some of the top agencies in the world, meet with leading executives, and network with alumni and other peers. Enjoy some of NYC’s finest cultural attractions, all while traveling as a native on bus, subway, and foot.

Student Organizations and Competitions
  • American Advertising Federation Collegiate Chapter participates in industry conferences, visits agencies, leads speaker panels, and consults with a variety of clients producing multimedia campaigns and entering award competitions.
  • In the One Club Creative Boot Camp, students work side by side with leading industry professionals on a real client brief in a “crash and burn” situation, presenting to senior agency executives in just four days’ time. Columbia has been the exclusive host of this prestigious boot camp since 2013, working with leading agencies such as Leo Burnett, FCB, and others.
  • Advertising students also regularly participate in national competitions, which take them from New York City to San Diego. Our students have won top awards in competitions like the National Retail Federation’s Student Challenge, the Collegiate Effies, the Young Globals, and the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Ad Competition.


You’ll have access to internships in Chicago and beyond with companies ranging from globally known ad agencies and media outlets to dynamic startups and creative boutiques. Students have interned at Leo Burnett, FCB, Energy BBDO, Digitas, Havas Worldwide, Chicago Fire, Ogilvy & Mather, Univision, Viacom, CNN, Turner, Chicago magazine, CBS, NBC, and ESPN.

“Internships are great, especially with Columbia’s location. You’re kind of at the center of all the agencies downtown. It was easy for me to take classes in the morning and then walk over to work in the afternoon.”

-Ricky Johanet ’12

Our full-time internship coordinators and faculty connections with the Chicago advertising industry can help you find opportunities and professional environments that complement your coursework—you won’t be getting coffee or making copies all day.

Learn more about how Columbia’s Career Center can help you find the right internship.


You can find Columbia College Chicago Advertising alumni in creative advertising and marketing agencies across the country. Agencies alumni work at include Droga5, Leo Burnett, R/GA, Energy BBDO, Havas, FCB, Epsilon, Heat, Wieden+Kennedy, and Burrell Communications. Our alumni have worked on brands of major companies, such as Nike, Visa, Google, Kraft, Samsung, Sprint, Target, and Procter & Gamble.

Alum Jordan Dinwiddie

“[In advertising] you can connect; you can really tell a story.”

-Jordan Dinwiddie ’13

Read more


Our faculty members are seasoned, active professionals and leaders in their fields. Instructors have created campaigns for leading ad agencies and Fortune 500 clients, written books, organized industry conferences, and contributed articles to academic and trade journals. See all department faculty.

Peg Murphy

Peg Murphy thinks advertising is the perfect place for young creatives to find a career path (and a paycheck).

Read More