A boastful billboard along northbound Interstate 10 has rankled some University of Phoenix officials the past few months, leaving some to wonder whether the message is meant as a jab at their institution.
Motorists headed north to downtown Phoenix can’t miss it. The sign says, "Get a Real MBA," touting the master of business administration program at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. The billboard is in an odd spot: It’s near the home offices of the University of Phoenix, a school known for its online course offerings.
University of Phoenix officials said they don’t consider the sign a symbol of any tension between the two schools. However, the ad campaign "wouldn’t be something that we would do," said Terri Bishop, a senior vice president for the school, which also has an MBA program.
When asked if the sign affected the reputation of the University of Phoenix, Bishop responded: "I think the publicity has been worse for ASU. They’re the ones that look bad for having that out there. We’re still enrolling students."
The ads are in various spots in the Valley.
Craig Smith, a spokesman for the ASU business school, said the message of the billboards is meant to set ASU’s business program apart from other local MBA programs.
ASU meant no insult by advertising near the University of Phoenix, he said. The I-10 stretch "is an important corridor for us," Smith said. "It’s a large coincidence that that billboard happened to be right there." He added that ASU ended up moving its billboard after officials realized the sign was so close to the University of Phoenix offices.
Relief is in sight for anyone vexed by the billboards. Smith said the ads are being taken down as the university enters phase two in the ad campaign.
"At some point this week the billboards along the highway are starting to change (the message) to define what an MBA is," Smith said. "The new campaign is not ‘Get a Real MBA.’ The next step in this campaign is: What makes a real MBA?"
The change has nothing to do with any complaints about the first phase, he said.