The Creative Circus prepares tomorrow’s advertising stars

“The name, Creative Circus, may sound a little counterintuitive, but it really fits us,” said Shannon Cobourn, associate director. “We’re a fast track offering many paths into the advertising industry, and we’re fun, like a circus.”

The mission of the 17-year-old portfolio preparation school is “to graduate the best-prepared, most avidly sought-after creatives in the industry.”

“Those aren’t words that we just hang on the wall. We teach our students the skills they need to be employable,” Cobourn said.

The Creative Circus is not an art school; it’s a place where creative people learn to make their ideas and talents relevant and marketable.

Located in a converted warehouse in Atlanta, the school is fully accredited as a postsecondary occupational institution by the Council of Occupational Education, and meets state and federal regulations for Title IV federal financial aid.

The school’s academic programs include art direction, copywriting, design, commercial photography, interactive design and interactive development. Working professionals teach the elements of concept, strategy, craft and execution within those specialties.

Students hone their skills for two years (eight quarters) by completing problem-solving assignments and submitting their best work for professional review. They graduate with a certificate, a portfolio, a website and other marketing materials they show to recruiters from agencies that come to the school’s portfolio review days.

Cobourn likens portfolio review days to speed-dating and says the purpose is to produce employment matches. Agencies from around the world come to the school because of its reputation and growing body of successful graduates. One of those is Justin Bajan, who works for Los Angeles-based agency David & Goliath, and co-created the concept for a Kia Optima TV commercial that ran during the 2012 Super Bowl.

“We take students with college degrees, students right out of high school and, sometimes, working professionals who want to sharpen their skills,” Cobourn said. “They come because they have creative talent, but aren’t sure what to do with it. Most are referred by former students. The work is hard, but they love it because they are creating.”

Instructors and career advisors help students find employment.

“A great job is not the same for everyone,” she said. “Some students have families and want to stay close to Atlanta; others want to work with a certain mentor they admire; while some just want to go to New York City and are willing to work 17 hours a day to get their foot in the door.”

Hiring has declined during the recession, but Cobourn says demand has risen recently.

“Even in a bad economy, brands need to advertise and stand out. They’re looking for the best creative talent,” she said. “In 2011, we placed about 98 percent of our graduates, with average salaries in the $40,000 to $45,000 range.”

Tuition is $5,506 for a 12-credit-hour quarter. Supplies cost from $500 to $800 per quarter.

For information, call 866-407-0296 or go to

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