New instructor Eric Kripas cuts the BS in advertising

By Paige Barnes, Audience Engagement Editor

Eric Kripas, an adjunct faculty member in the Communication Department, said growing up his family lived above a funeral home, and he enjoyed playing basketball and rollerblading in the parking lot next door. Courtesy of Eric Kripas

Most children cannot wait for the commercials to end so they can get back to watching their TV show. But as a kid, Eric Kripas used to tell his parents to keep the commercials on as he watched, fascinated by what Chef Boyardee was advertising.

Growing up without streaming services that skipped commercials, Kripas, an adjunct faculty member in the Communication Department, said he became intrigued by the art of advertising. He liked how in 30 seconds or less a commercial could take viewers on a journey through the beginning, middle and end of a story.

Even today, seeing Nike’s single line advertisements sends a “shiver down his spine” because of how much power a simple image can hold. He said he knew he wanted to give people that same feeling from a young age.

“If a kid who grew up in a funeral home his whole life because his dad was a funeral director can make it [in] advertising and go places like Prague, Hollywood, Canada [and] Mexico to film commercials, anyone can do it,” Kripas said.

Now a creative director at O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul, a Chicago advertising agency, and new instructor as of this spring semester, Kripas said he is ready to give his “Advertising Workshop” students a taste of the real world.

As a 2008 marketing communication alum with a focus in advertising, he has been in his students’ shoes.

Coming out of Columbia, Kripas said he had a “unique edge” over others because he was confident when the spotlight was on him to present an idea.

In the advertising industry, ideas get shot down all the time, he said, but if one is truly passionate about their idea, they will work to defend it and improve their work.

“When you’re trying your hardest and when you’re not bulls——- around … [and] if you’re really, really passionate about getting a job in advertising, you will find a way to do it because that hard work and effort get recognized right off the bat,” he said.

His teachers Peg Murphy, associate chair of the Communication Department and an associate professor, and Kevin Christophersen, an associate professor in the Communication Department, brought in outside professionals to tell students how it is when he attended Columbia.

Kripas said he plans to run his “Advertising Workshop” class the exact same way.

From day one, Kripas told his students he will format the class like a real agency where ideas will be quashed, but students will pick themselves back up and get a thicker skin because of it.

“I was able to apply what I learned [at Columbia]—which when you think about it from a high school math perspective, I have yet to apply trigonometry anything that I do,” he said. “The fact that Columbia gave you something real was good.”

Christophersen, Kripas’ former instructor for advertising practicum, said he remembers Kripas as one of those students who he knew was going places and had a knack for writing.

When Kripas was an associate creative director at Havas Chicago from 2014 to 2019, Christophersen said he would take his class on a field trip so Kripas could give them a tour of the building and set up a panel to answer students’ questions.

“I’m really proud of how much he’s grown,” Christophersen said. “Watching [Kripas] from a student and now in a position to also help students and mentor them … is [something]. I can’t even tell you how great that feels.”

Having worked in the advertising industry for over 10 years, Kripas said he looks forward to working alongside students who are the future of advertising.

As a new instructor, Kripas said he wants students and faculty to feel comfortable approaching him. He said he knows what it is like working with people who appear “stonefaced,” so being the most approachable person in the room calms everyone down, allowing them to be themselves.

But, this does not prevent him from giving honest feedback to his students.

“I’m not going to hide stuff just to keep things nice and safe,” Kripas said. “I want to say things that should be said because they’re going to hear that in the real world. You’d rather hear something in your schooling days than in the professional world.”