Reinvent the TV dinner. That was the assignment in a recent late-night session at advertising agency Deutsch LA in West Los Angeles.

But the mandate didn’t come from a major food company and the people toiling away weren’t agency employees.

The assignment was for a class in a new program to train advertising workers for Silicon Beach in this digital age. The program, a partnership between Loyola Marymount University and ThinkLA, an advertising trade group in Culver City, is called mSchool: Institute for Marketing at LMU.

Eric Johnson, president of agency Ignited in El Segundo and co-president of ThinkLA, said the many new digital agencies, video game companies and boutique marketing firms on the Westside of Los Angeles need entry level employees who can produce digital advertising on their first day of employment. The mSchool was created to fill that need.

“As brand marketers, we need employees who are ahead of the curve,” he said. “Los Angeles is the world capital of creativity, so we thought we could tap into that creativity and produce a better curriculum.”

The class meets on Thursday night, with locations split among the Loyola Marymount campus in Westchester and offices of local agencies or marketers. Future sessions are scheduled at video game publisher Electronic Arts in Playa Vista and ad agency TBWAChiatDay in Playa del Rey.

Andrew Rohm, associate professor of marketing at Loyola Marymount, said each class features a lecture, a creative exercise or experiment, and students’ presentations of the results. Also, in keeping with the job market, the curriculum has a heavy emphasis on digital skills.

“As individuals these students use social media, but they don’t know how to use it for marketing,” he said. “We hope to fill the gap with graduates who can hit the ground running in social, interactive and digital-oriented jobs.”

The 19 students in the class, who had to submit resumes and essays to be accepted, will receive elective credit toward a bachelor’s in business. By 2014, the program will become a two-year academic track leading to a new bachelor’s degree called modern marketing. It will produce about 50 graduates a year.

Eventually, Rohm hopes the program offers graduate degrees and executive midcareer classes.

ThinkLA provides the lecturers for free and LMU already has classrooms and vans to shuttle students to the firms. But the school plans to raise money to bring resident professors and eventually build facilities at the Westchester campus. Rohm doesn’t have an estimate for funding needs.


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