Kalis supports students with new award for creativity in advertising

Murray Kalis

Talented advertising undergraduate students will be recognized for their creative work and provided with a monetary gift to support their creative career path, thanks to the Murray Kalis Award for Creativity in Advertising. The new award was established by College of Media alumnus Murray Kalis (BS ’61).

“Much of advertising education is quantitative based: media, research, tracking,” Kalis said. “Yet, what can truly differentiate ad agencies is qualitative. What I learned in the ad business was creative is the great equalizer in agency pitches. No matter how big our competitors were, if we had the big idea, we won the account.”

Kalis, who spent most of his career as a creative director, endowed this award to emphasize to students the importance of creativity in advertising.

“Overall, as a department head, I feel blessed and very happy that we have alumni who care deeply about our students, and who would really like to recognize the strength in our talent pool,” said Professor Mike Yao, head of the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising. 

The award process, which begins this December in advertising senior lecturer Peter Sheldon’s ADV 452: Creative Concepts I course, will take place during a virtual portfolio review, where at least one “upper-level creative with an extensive track record” will critique the students’ work. 

Three awards will be given: one for the best single ad, one for the best three-ad campaign, and one for the best 10-ad portfolio. Students have the ability to win in multiple categories.

The criteria for the Murray Kalis Award for Creativity in Advertising is smart positioning, outstanding creative concept, and strong execution, in addition to that “wow” factor, Sheldon explained. The winners will be given a gift award to support their efforts in pursuing a creative career path in the advertising industry.

“From the time I started at [the University of Illinois], I was always interested in majors that require creativity,” Kalis said. “In fact, I switched majors every semester, starting with architecture, to industrial design, to fine arts painting, and then to creative writing.”

Because of this, he had little to no concentration of prerequisites to start his junior year. Then, he learned that the School of Journalism only required 60 hours completed, and that the school offered a major in advertising.  

“I loved advertising because it called upon everything I knew and had learned. After all, you never know what products you might need to work on,” Kalis said. Two years later he graduated from the journalism school having majored in advertising.

“Even though our curriculum does not have a dedicated track for creativity because its history has always focused on strategy, there are many creative talents in our major,” Yao said. “We will always be looking for a way to discover and support these students who are interested in pursuing a creative path in advertising, and so this timely gift and this award will allow us to discover and cultivate this type of talent.”

Yao said it is important for students to be given a broad view of the industry and to be able to pursue their interests through the advertising curriculum, while feeling supported and recognized.

“This award really reflects our dedication and our view of the importance of this particular dimension of advertising,” he said.  

Kalis is creative director of Kalis, Inc.; a partner and creative director emeritus at Riester; a board member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council; on the board of advisors for Dave’s Hot Chicken; and a member of the Tech Coast Angels, the largest angel investor group in the U.S. Most recently, he joined the Los Angeles-based B2B delivery startup, Ship District, as Chief Marketing Officer. 

—Kimberly Belser, Communications and Marketing Intern