Maris Schilling always pushed to make things better. She pushed others to be better, more creative. She pushed herself and management to do the right thing. She would transform teams, and even agencies with her drive coupled with her extraordinary good humor.
Maris graduated from Brooklyn College in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science degree in television and radio communications. She started her medical advertising career as a secretary at Klemtner Advertising. One day she overheard the agency was having trouble with a client so she nonchalantly suggested a concept which became an award-winning campaign that ran for three years winning every award available at that time. After a brief stint as Junior Copywriter at William Douglas McAdams in 1976 she was hired as Copy Supervisor at Lavey Wolff, Swift until 1979. That’s when Gross Townsend Frank Hoffman snapped her up to be VP Group Copy Supervisor. After three years she went on to become Creative Director of the Consumer Division at Kallir Phillips Ross and then Associate Creative Director and SVP of the entire KPR agency, where she worked from 1983 to 1994.
After KPR, she left the business briefly to raise a family and later battle ovarian cancer. After treatment, she jumped back in as SVP Creative Director at LifeBrands before starting Reagent LLC, an independent healthcare agency, with partner Lorraine Pastore from 2008 to 2012. After that she battled lung cancer, but still kept writing and creating.
Maris was the recipient of numerous industry awards and was one of the first in the healthcare space to win a coveted Clio award in 1982. Other awards included the Art Director’s Club award, 1983; Rx award, 1988, and numerous Readex/Starch awards over the years. She has also won the Davey, InAwe and W3 awards for digital work.
Over the years Maris’ product experience spanned consumer, pharmaceutical, diagnostic, medical education, public health and institutional advertising. Some of her product launches include significant pharmaceuticals, such as Duragesic, Ticlid, and Risperdal. She led the strategy and creative team to retain market leadership for the over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol after its second poisoning incident. She also worked with Merck on aprepitant (Emend) from the time it was an undeveloped molecule headed with no clear indication to market-topping treatment for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting.
Maris’s professional legacy was as much about how she treated her peers as the work they created. She hired the first black copywriter at KPR and placed her on one of J&Js most important brands, which was an uphill struggle internally. J&J was impressed with what appeared to be the agency’s “progressive policy for diversity.”
As a writer, she helped craft the Patient Bill of Rights which is still displayed in hospitals and a skin care manual for nurses of patient receiving EgFR inhibitors. In addition to her healthcare advertising work, Maris also written a play: Cancer, the Musical, and a book about the industry and the drug approval process called Medicine Avenue.
Maris also made an impact outside her industry work. For a number of years Maris sat on the New York State Ovarian Cancer Task Force to ensure the patient’s point-of-view in education materials about ovarian cancer for Ob/Gyns. She also helped Free to Breathe, a partnership for lung cancer survival, to increase awareness about lung cancer and raise funds for treatment. She helped crystallize the group’s mission and vision with pithy and clear copy that donors could relate to. Her strategic help won the team great attention and led to the merger with the National Lung Cancer Foundation.
Maris was always ‘pushy’ — she pushed for more and better creativity, better teamwork with her ‘conceptual teams’ and she pushed for fair and equal pay for all. She pushed herself, her staff, her agency and her clients. Always wanting to do better, to BE better. As a result of her pushing, things got better — for her staff, her brands and all who worked with her. She pushed with her own drive to be better and she pushed with her sense of humor, which would help the medicine go down more easily. The industry could use more ‘pushers’ like Maris.
Sadly, Maris lost her battle with cancer November 17, 2020. She had learned of her MAHF induction a few weeks prior.