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Advertising Pitfalls: A Warning from a Milwaukee Advertising Agency

As a leading Milwaukee advertising agency, we hold a deep-seated respect and affection for TV commercials. However, when misused, advertising is a powerful tool that can severely harm your brand, reputation, and business. A prime example of this is the current TV campaign by American Intercontinental University (AIU).

Consider this case of a poorly executed ad:

Here’s a glimpse for those unfamiliar with AIU’s recent 30-second spots: Here’s the headline: “AIU. The Serious” is juxtaposed with visuals of people supposedly studying while engaging in activities like playing tennis, washing a car or flipping pancakes, ironically undermining the message. This approach is particularly damaging because academic accreditation organizations have periodically questioned AIU’s educational system.

Having worked closely with AIU, writing articles on the benefits of online education and creating marketing materials, I know firsthand that AIU takes its educational commitment seriously. However, the prestige of long-distance learning does not match that of traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, and these ads do not help enhance the image of online schools.

View the controversial AIU commercial here.

The Conflict Between Advertising and Brand Identity

The intent behind these commercials likely was to portray online education as a flexible option that fits seamlessly into a busy lifestyle. Yet, this messaging is flawed. Online courses demand as much dedication and time as in-person classes, requiring significant self-discipline and commitment. Moreover, learning complex subjects while engaged in physical activities is impractical, and the suggestion that online courses are effortless and trivial is misleading.

This portrayal not only trivializes the challenge of online learning but potentially damages the perception of AIU graduates among potential employers who view these ads. By contrast, competitors like Kaplan University have managed to create charming and credible ads, enhancing their brand’s image.


Visuals are powerful. Misleading images, like a student playing tennis while studying, leave a lasting negative impression that can impact perceptions during a job interview or when learning about a product. Remember, advertising works across all mediums—TV, print, and online—and its impact should never be underestimated.

Could Your Marketing Be Off-Track?

If you’re concerned that your advertising strategy may not align with your brand’s values, the brand Sukee advertising agency is here to help. We offer FREE consultations to review your marketing strategies. Our commitment is to provide honest feedback and innovative ideas to refine and possibly enhance your current efforts. There’s no charge. We are obligated to use our services; we aim to help you view your advertising from all angles.

Contact us today, and let’s ensure your fetishizing reflects the actual value of your brand.

Michele Allen

With over 30 years of design and marketing experience, I founded Crux in 2005, a 360° Creative and Marketing Agency, catering to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and non-profits. Specializing in experiential spaces, museums, brand development, and digital marketing, I excel in crafting memorable experiences while emphasizing the significance of authentic brand communication. I offer expertise in Brand Development, Trade Show Exhibits, Museums, Corporate Spaces, Interactives & VR/AR, and Digital Marketing, committed to tailored support and guidance.