C-K Milwaukee and Curtis Johnson Take a Stand on the Ugly Truth of Domestic Violence

By Barbara Goldman

Domestic violence is on the rise in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and advertising agency Cramer-Krasselt has taken an active and bold stance with a new pro bono campaign to get the word out about shelter and advocacy organization Sojourner Family Peace Center (SFPC), urging victims to get help – before it’s too late.  SFPC provides education, advocacy, counseling and support services to help keep women and children safe. Their mission is to create peaceful communities where all women, men and children can live their lives free from violence

Homicides  in Milwaukee attributed to domestic violence continue to rise, with the Milwaukee Police Department reporting 12 percent of homicides in this last year related to domestic violence (up from 8 percent in 2009). Despite this increase, the number of calls being fielded by SFPC’s 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline dropped markedly over the same period, indicating victims may not know where to turn for help

Executive Director Angela Mancuso of  Sojourner Family Peace Center believes their 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline is very often the first step toward getting help and toward empowerment.  “Our hotline is a safety net; we want the community to be aware that we are here to help and no one needs to suffer alone,” says Mancuso. Recognizing the importance of  this mission, Cramer-Krasselt developed a powerful campaign that lets victims of domestic violence know how to contact  SFPC,  while reminding them of all the reasons why they cannot  hesitate in such dangerous situations.

Based on insight from previous shelter residents, C-K recognized that asking for help is often easier said than done.  Most victims of domestic violence are fearful of retribution, have no financial means and don’t believe their situations will get better—they feel lost in the system. Domestic abuse is rarely a one-time event. With this in mind, C-K developed a campaign of “Fist” posters, digital billboards and “How Long” radio PSAs to get the message out that “The Longer You Wait, The Deadlier Abuse Gets.”  Bold fists, representing a ticking time bomb in the form of dynamite and explosives, were the powerful visuals that urged victims to get help immediately.

With this sense of urgency, plus knowing a great deal of post production work would be required for the campaign, C-K went to retoucher Brad Palm. Palm has worked on numerous campaigns for the agency and is highly regarded there.  Palm then turned to Minneapolis-based advertising photographer Curtis Johnson  to work on the visuals for the campaign.

“Brad called me and explained the campaign, sent over the comps and immediately I was "in". I loved the graphic strength of the visuals as well as the subject matter.  As C-K Vice Pres./Creative Director Chris Buhrman puts it, “Curtis Johnson came to us highly recommended by a retoucher we like named Brad Palm. We checked out his site and were impressed with the realism of his composite work. He has a strong vision for how a bunch of disjointed parts can come together to create an interesting and realistic image. Not everyone has that talent. Plus, he and Brad had a chemistry that seems to come through in the work.”

In fact, some of Johnson’s favorite work that he has been involved with over the years has been in the public service sector. “It definitely hits on a greater emotional level than much of my ad work that I have produced,” says Johnson.  Johnson has worked with many advertising agencies and corporations over the years and is sought after for his rather unique and humorous slant on life, plus his creative and technical abilities and staff to accommodate large-scale productions. The SFPC project basically had no budget because of the pro bono nature of public service, but Johnson is known for his problem solving and level headedness in tough situations.

Johnson just happened to have a hand grenade in his studio from a previous project and some light grey modeling clay to represent the C4 explosive. “I had Todd Stenson, a prop builder from Machine Scenic, build the TNT Fist as a favor. He did a phenomenal job,” says Johnson. Then he shot some miscellaneous parts and a digital readout to simulate the wiring and detonator for the C4 fist image. Lastly, Johnson shot a fist in many different positions for reference, and Palm did the rest.  Palm worked his magic to make the images come alive with a very visceral strength. “The images make it look very simple and graphic, but believe me, I know Brad put a lot of time into these,” adds Johnson. The attention to detail and subtlety gave these images that extra punch, you might say.

The campaign will target women and children throughout the Milwaukee area.  It directs people to the 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline as a gateway for all of SFPC’s services for all those impacted by domestic violence.

“We all recognize that asking for help is hard to do, especially with so many barriers,” said C-K Milwaukee EVP/General Manager Betsy Brown. Cramer-Krasselt was able to take the lead in elevating the reality of the situation and work towards ending this devastating cycle of violence. As Mancuso says, “Recognizing the importance of our mission, Cramer-Krasselt developed a powerful campaign that lets victims of domestic violence know how to contact us, while reminding them of all the reasons why they cannot put this call off. We are grateful for C-K’s vision and strong investment in helping those we serve.”

For more information about the campaign and the services of SFPC please visit:  www.familypeacecenter.org/.  To see more of Curtis Johnson’s advertising and corporate work, visit his site at www.curtisjohnsonphoto.com.

 Print  Creative Credits:

Agency:  Cramer-Krasselt Milwaukee                                       
Client:  Sojourner Family Peace Center
Title(s) of ad(s): Fists: TNT, Grenade, Plastic Explosive
Executive Creative Director:   Chris Jacobs
Creative Director:  Chris Buhrman
Art Director:   Dan Koel
Copywriter:  Greg King
Photographer:  Curtis Johnson
Art Buyer:  Karen Kirsch
Print Producer: Kelli Buchholz
Retoucher:  Brad Palm
Account Executive: Tanya Pinsoneault
Project Manager:  Tara Swartz


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