A Film About Sex Trafficking: Hard To Make & Hard To Watch
A Film About Sex Trafficking: Hard To Make & Hard To Watch

Once the initial shock wore off from what I was hearing, the question was “Okay, just how on earth do you tell that story and do it right?”

I have to confess, when I heard Interstate 20 was one of, if not THE largest sex trafficking corridor in the United States, I was skeptical. Shocked and horrified, but mostly skeptical.

I live in Birmingham, Alabama. Not Las Vegas, or LA or New York. There’s no way this could be going on in Birmingham or even Atlanta for that matter. We are in the Deep South. No one treats another person like that in the South.

But once we began doing the research and talking to people who were actually experiencing it, the horror and realization began to set in. How on earth do you tell this story? And is there any way to make it believable?

The first hurdle our production team needed to cross was trying to get someone to go on camera and talk about it. The people involved in the business won’t say anything to you—if you can even find them. They are so good at hiding in the shadows that if you show up to film anything, you’d be spotted by any number of lookouts they have posted well before you pulled into the parking lot. Most of the customers helping fuel the industry won’t talk to you. Why would they? They have a new 16 year old just waiting for them at the next truck stop, which is sad, but true. A few brave truckers talked to us about the inside details and gave us a starting point for what we needed to capture. And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Finally, that leaves the victims themselves. After a few initial interviews we quickly realized that trying to get the victims to tell their stories is a lot like asking a soldier fresh from a firefight to describe his experience. Just like soldiers in combat, these victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are unable to emotionally recall their ordeal. They can talk, but they seem so disconnected from everything they are saying, it is hard to do it with meaning. We decided the best we could do was capture their stories and re-create them for the purpose of the film.



So, with cameras and chase cars in hand, we hit the road. Turns out, of all the elements in the video, the road was the easiest. The road doesn’t talk or try to hide. So our group spent weeks driving up and down the corridor between Birmingham and Atlanta to capture footage we needed. With a Red Epic, Canon 5D’s, GoPro Heroes, and a motion control rig, we were able to capture this part with relative ease. Only an occasional curious state trooper or motel owner even noticed us.

In the commercial ad business you always look forward to creating imagery to help tell your story. For the first time in my 30-year career, however, this was not the case. Every scene we captured in the film left an impression on our crew. Working in an old theater to recreate the “pimp” and “torture” sequences was as distressing to shoot as it is to watch. Some so distressing, we ended up using still photos rather than moving pictures to keep from crossing a line of taste somewhere. I don’t think “taste” and depicting sex trafficking even live in the same universe.

It took more than a year to capture and stage every scene for the film. Some of this was because of the schedule we needed in order to use key locations, and some of this was because the entire project was produced pro bono and had to be filmed after hours and on weekends. The time-lapse sequences were captured by going out just about every weekend to different locations along the interstate.

I hope the story we’ve told does justice to what we discovered. If we can prevent just one little girl from falling into this trap, we will have done our job. And if we can help give the victims back the life that was stolen from them, then every second of effort poured into the film was worth it.



Director
Spencer Till

Copywriter
Stephen Curry

DP
John Pope, Charlie Brown Sanders

Photographer
Jeff Williams

Time Lapse sequences
John Pope

Editor
Charlie Brown Sanders

Flame and finishing
John Pope

Audio and sweetening
Barry Brooks

Producers
Jacob Garner, Leigh Ann Motley and Ben Fine



I like history, always have. Even as a kid, I preferred a good war movie to Star Wars and cartoons. The future was all lasers and space. Phooey. History just seemed more exciting. And it actually happened. It was true. It was real. Luke Skywalker couldn’t hold a candle to Magellan or Robert E. Lee.

For a time, before getting into advertising, I worked towards a PhD in history. I quit my studies midway. As it turned out, I preferred reading history to researching it. Still, many years later, I get a great thrill from reading a solidly researched, well-written historical tract. Nothing beats it, except golf.

It bothers me that people don’t know or appreciate history. I think they’re depriving themselves of an important part of being alive. They’re missing the richness of appreciating where they exist in time. They don’t get to absorb the happenings of another place and era. And sadly, I believe their ability to fully make sense of the present world is compromised. Because man is a creature of memory, custom, and ritual, and the past will always be with us. For good and bad. The future is coming; I’m here to tell you, so is the past.

Well, for my money, there’s no better supplemental training a creative can have than a grasp of history. Each day, I face the blank sheet of paper. It can be daunting. But thanks to my passion for history, I don’t look down on that empty whiteness alone. I have inspirational helpers as I search for a concept to tackle a client’s problem. You may know some of them: Napoleon, Buzz Aldrin, James K. Polk, Cortez, Thomas More, Erasmus, Hannibal, Pericles, Botticelli, Peter Abelard, Chester Nimitz, Plato, Hadrian, Otto Von Bismarck but enough name dropping.

20 Big Wins At Healthcare Marketing Awards
20 Big Wins At Healthcare Marketing Awards

At Lewis, we go to great pains to remind people that we’re not a “healthcare agency.” After all, we work with RV manufacturers, insurance companies, energy utilities and other businesses, and we’ve won awards in every one of those categories.

But at the same time, we are especially proud each year when the Healthcare Marketing Awards roll around.

We like healthcare.

It’s consumer branding. It’s an expensive, important decision in people’s lives. It’s research-driven and yet highly emotional in its execution.

We find like-minded souls at the helm of many of the nation’s top teaching hospitals. They value research, as we do. They have substantive, real product differences that consumers deserve to know about. And creative skills we tend to be good at, like storytelling and craftsmanship, make us a good fit for the category.

Nearly 4,000 entries were received in this year’s competition–and Lewis walked away with 20 major awards, including one Best of Show.

This is on the heels of the nation’s other significant healthcare marketing competition, the Aster Awards, where Lewis also won a Best of Show and other honors.

We work hard at this stuff. So, it’s gratifying when the industry notices. I’m proud of our teams in all three Lewis offices for such a great showing.

You’ll find the complete list of wins below.

 


 

2011 HEALTHCARE MARKETING AWARDS

BEST OF SHOW – Newspaper Advertising
Memorial Health
Savannah, GA
Beach/High School Football/Field Trips

GOLD
Logo/Letterhead
Louisiana State University Health System
LSU Corporate Identity

GOLD
Magazine Series
Medical University South Carolina Medical Center
Fisherman/Girl in Car/Grandpa & Grandson

GOLD
Outdoor
Memorial Health
Heroes/Cancer/Preemies

GOLD
Television Series
Memorial Health
Midnight/Hello Summer/Chances

GOLD
Newspaper Series
Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

GOLD
Special Video
Stony Brook University Fundraising Video

GOLD
Employee Communication Program
University of Virginia Health System
UVA EMR Campaign

GOLD
Newspaper Series
Vanderbilt Health Primary Care & Walk-In Clinics
Family Doctor/Fever/Check Up

SILVER
Television Series
Medical University South Carolina Medical Center
Distance/Independence/News

SILVER
Newspaper Series
Memorial Health
Beach/High School Football/Field Trips

SILVER
Television Single
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
Money

SILVER
Radio Series
Stony Brook University Medical Center
Remember/Different/The Choice

SILVER
Special Event
University Healthcare Consortium
Poster/Microsite/Brochure/Video

SILVER
Special Video
Upstate University Health System
Cancer Video

SILVER
Total Advertising with TV
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Knowlege Campaign

BRONZE
Newspaper Series
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
This Isn’t

BRONZE
Radio Series
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
McPherson/Pietenpol/Thompson

BRONZE
Total Advertising with TV
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Branding Campaign

MERIT
New Media
University of Virginia Health System
UVA Holiday Greeting

 

2011 ASTER AWARDS

BEST OF SHOW – Total Advertising Campaign
University of Virginia Health System — Charlottesville, VA

Award: Best of Show
Entry Name: UVA EMR Campaign
Category: Total Advertising Campaigns

Medical University of South Carolina — Charleston, SC
Award: Gold
Entry Name: 2010 Magazine Series
Category: Magazine Publication – Series

Medical University of South Carolina — Charleston, SC
Award: Silver
Entry Name: 2010 Total Ad Series
Category: Total Advertising Campaigns

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt — Nashville, TN
Award: Gold
Entry Name: Newspaper Series
Category: Newspaper Advertising – Series

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital — Stony Brook, NY
Award: Gold
Entry Name: Development Ad ’Sandbox’
Category: Newspaper Advertising – Single

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital — Stony Brook, NY
Award: Silver
Entry Name: Stony Brook Children’s Logo
Category: Logo Design/Letterhead

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital — Stony Brook, NY
Award: Silver
Entry Name: Fundraising Video
Category: Other/Misc

University of Virginia Health System — Charlottesville, VA
Award: Bronze
Entry Name: UVA Beyond Surgery
Category: Service Line – Surgical Services

University of Virginia Health System — Charlottesville, VA
Award: Gold
Entry Name: UVA Branding Campaign – Spine
Category: Service Line – Orthopedic Services

University of Virginia Health System — Charlottesville, VA
Award: Silver
Entry Name: UVA Branding Campaign – Pediatrics
Category: Service Line – Children’s

Vanderbilt University Medical Center — Nashville, TN
Award: Gold
Entry Name: 2010 Magazine Series
Category: Magazine Publication – Series

Vanderbilt University Medical Center — Nashville, TN
Award: Silver
Entry Name: Anthem :60 TV
Category: TV/Video Advertising – Single

 


I really enjoy calligraphy and the art of handwriting, so I was disheartened to find a recent article from Time magazine bemoaning the death of handwriting and good penmanship.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always appreciated the intimate and personal nature of a small handwritten letter to say “hello” or a note to say “thank you.” This was the main inspiration behind my work on a recent identity and ad campaign for local stationery boutique, Scribbler.

Aesthetically, I was particularly inspired by the work of calligraphic artists such as Betsy Dunlap, Maybelle, Bernard Maisner and Elvis Swift as well as historical letters and vintage postcards.

Betsy Dunlap >> http://betsydunlap.googlepages.com/bdunlap
Maybelle >> http://www.may-belle.com/index.html
Bernard Maisner >> http://www.bernardmaisner.com/index.php
Elvis Swift >> http://www.joaniebrep.com/swift.html

In this digital texting / tweeting / Facebooking age, the rarity of receiving handwritten correspondence makes it even more special. But I do hope that the work of artists like these, as well as stationery stores like The Scribbler will keep the tradition of the written note and social stationery alive.

news
history

A print campaign for The Scribbler was named Best of Show in the 7th District ADDY Awards in New Orleans (the 7th District encompasses most of the southeastern United States and includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Lousiana). The campaign of small space ads for a Birmingham-area stationery boutique was created by ACD Roy Burns, designer Holly Cook and senior copywriter Kathy Oldham. The accolade also marks the second consecutive Best of Show District win for Lewis Communications.

Social Media as Conversation
Social Media as Conversation

While people spend countless hours each day checking social media sites, their reasons for doing so aren’t always as “cutting edge” as those of us in the marketing world would like to believe. A recent study published by Pew Research Center found that 91% of people active on social media sites say that simply staying in touch with friends is their motivation to use.

Too many marketers refuse to acknowledge that the way those of us in the communication industry use social media isn’t typical, as compared to the average consumer. If companies and brands using social media are really looking to drive ROI through these channels, they need to start offering information as valuable as a post from a friend.

Early in October, I received a call asking me to handle the marketing for an event at The University of Alabama. Seven UA departments were collaborating to bring Soledad O’Brien to campus, and if you haven’t guessed already, the first issue brought up was how social media needed to be the main component in our marketing strategy.

The primary social media channels being used were UA Ferguson Center’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, which had significant followings of more than 3,000 students. My challenge was to figure out how to engage students with the Ferg to drive the desired result: a packed house for the night of Soledad’s speech. I did a little research and found that most students were looking to feel like they got some sort of one-on-one time with Soledad during her visit.

After this discovery, I made two very simple additions to the marketing strategy that drove positive results on both social media accounts—not to mention a standing room only crowd on the night of the event:

I. We asked students to submit questions for the Q&A session held after her speech via Facebook and wound up with hundreds of submissions.

II. We set up and promoted a Twitter hash tag so students who weren’t able to attend could still participate. We had over 50 students tweeting on our live chat the night of the event.

These simple tweaks were not only effective in engaging students for the Soledad event, but have served to revitalize the Ferg’s social media presence. Tweets per day are at their highest level ever, Facebook comments and unique page-views are higher than they have been in months and we even had students solicit our team via Twitter asking to write a post on the Ferg Blog, which rarely sees any activity outside of UA employees.

Why not take this example to heart and show your online community that your focus is on what they want rather than what you’d like to tell them? Try sharing information they see value in rather than the self-serving, one-way marketing updates we are all guilty of sending out far too often.

Titanic lessons in advertising & branding
Titanic lessons in advertising & branding

Part I

RMS Titanic represented state-of-the-art technology in 1912. It was the pinnacle of Edwardian achievement and the height of accomplishment in the industrial revolution up to that time. And, it was in service for only 4 days.

The lessons learned from Titanic are profound and many. The sinking changed an antiquated system, and those changes continue to save lives to this day. So perhaps we can also glean lessons that apply to our job as communicators and brand stewards.


1. If you’re coming head on into disaster, don’t avoid it; aim directly for it.

When Titanic sailed, it was the brand new flagship of the White Star Line. So the line decided they should have their highest-ranking people in command. The problem was, most of those officers didn’t have a great understanding of the brand new ship. And that is ultimately what led to the disaster.

This is also true of brands. If the people in charge of a brand don’t understand that the brand really isn’t theirs, but instead is their customer’s property, that brand is doomed to fail in this new era of communication.

Chief Officer William McMaster Murdoch was at the helm of Titanic when the iceberg was spotted. His reaction was to go with his instincts. “Hard astarboard, full speed astern” was his command.

His intention was to swing the ship around the berg to miss it altogether. The problem was, he didn’t understand how Titanic was engineered. His command actually eliminated the ship’s ability to turn quickly. Because the ship “glanced” off the side of the berg, it damaged five watertight compartments. Titanic was designed to be able to stay afloat with four compartments damaged.

The best order at the helm of Titanic that night would have been “full speed astern,” an order to steer directly into the berg. This would have damaged at most two compartments and would have saved 1500 lives.

In a time when a brand can no longer control a one-way conversation, it is more important than ever to do what Officer Murdoch should have done: take on whatever is coming your way directly. Don’t try to avoid it. Don’t try to sugar coat it. Take it head on. The new consumer wants a “relationship.” They want to be able to trust a brand. So they want to feel like that brand is listening to what they have to say.

And just like in any friendship, not all conversations are going to be nice ones. But friendships survive because the two parties trust each other. They may not always agree, but they will always trust. Be authentic. Be real.


2. Be careful what you say. The message could turn on you.

“God himself could not sink this ship.”

After almost 100 years, this quote — which, legend has it, was made on the spur of the moment by a deckhand during Titanic’s sea trials a week before her maiden voyage — has become the defining characteristic of the disaster. Titanic: the unsinkable ship. Ironically, the brand — the White Star Line — never made this claim. Yet to this day it is synonymous with the greatest ocean liner disaster of all time. Why?

Because it was picked up and given life by the media, and by word of mouth, and made larger by each person who passed it along. The brand allowed this exaggeration to take hold and did nothing to influence or quell it.

Why not? The ship was practically unsinkable. It had a double bottom, 16 watertight compartments with three separate systems to activate the doors should the ship need them. What could possibly go wrong? Why not allow this misinformation to circulate? It could only help the brand, right?

Wrong. White Star never recovered after Titanic sank and was eventually absorbed by their primary competitor.

This exact situation lives on today, especially with the advent of social media. Any message, whether true or not, can now be picked up and circulated around the world instantly. The brands of tomorrow need to be cognizant today about a game plan for where the conversation goes and how to shape its life.

Those who have systems in place to guide the discussion won’t be blindsided. You will never be able to fully control the conversation, but you can get your side of the story to take hold if you are prepared. Because once the wrong story begins to spin, it is hard to slow down. Just ask Tiger Woods.

(to be continued)

The poorest country I know
The poorest country I know

In March, I traveled with a group of our staff to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to look for potential sites to build the first Joseph School. The idea was to send a video and still photography crew to document our time there. I will attempt to describe what we saw, but most people reading this will never be able to grasp the desperate living conditions for 98 percent of Haitians.

First, a little about The Joseph School. A good friend of mine, Jim Bryson, asked our company to help spread the word about a concept he developed while working to assist after the Haitian earthquake disaster. Most Haitian children are forced to live in orphanages because their parents simply cannot afford to take care of their basic needs. For generations, the country has found itself in a self-perpetuating situation in which the majority of the country is uneducated and has no hope of finding jobs to sustain themselves. Children in orphanages are basically turned out into the streets after 5th grade and face a career of panhandling to try to find a meal for the day. In Haiti, there is no long-term hope for “bettering oneself” as we are so accustomed to here. In Haiti, the long-term dream is to simply find sustenance for the day. Period.

Jim’s concept for The Joseph School is to establish a school that can take the 5th grade children and provide them with a free education all the way through 12th grade. His concept is, for the first time, to give the children of Haiti a chance to become leaders, a chance to find a real job and a chance at a future.

All those plans and dreams sound great when you are hearing them in the lobby of an upscale Nashville hotel. They take on an entirely new meaning when you’re riding in an open truck down a main street so embroiled in chaos it is hard to imagine that it has ever been deemed a “society.” Trash is piled everywhere because there has been no trash pickup since the earthquake (a year ago, really?). Trash is piled into every possible place: streams, the sides of the roads, etc. There is no sewer service, so the same stream that provides sanitation to one person is providing the source for cleaning clothes for another, or worse still—drinking water. The entire city of Port-au-Prince smells of burning garbage since that is really the only way to get rid of any trash at all.

The streets are full of dust, dirt and garbage, and untold diseases are kicked up in the air with each passing car. Traffic could easily be the situation one might find if a major city such as Los Angeles was to endure a nuclear attack; there is no real order – the rule of the day for traffic is to stick your nose in and hope it doesn’t get taken off. But somehow they never seem to hit one another. It is truly amazing.

The United Nations has a large presence, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what they are doing. They drive around in tanks with machine guns. I suppose they are “establishing order.” What we wish they were doing is trying to rebuild this country. It looks exactly the same today as it did the day after the earthquake over a year ago. Buildings are still piles of rubble. Many still hold the victims of the earthquake inside them.

But it is against this backdrop of utter chaos, hopelessness and despair that we discovered the most wonderful thing; the resiliency of the Haitian people. In a country that most people would agree has perhaps the worst luck on the planet – the world’s worst poverty, hurricanes frequently rake the country, few if any natural resources left, mudslides in the low-lying areas of the country, and now a catastrophic earthquake and a disastrous epidemic of cholera —we find smiling, embracing, joyful people. People who put on the best clothes they own every Sunday and walk miles to worship a God that most people would assume has turned his back on them.

If these people can have faith and hope living under such extreme circumstances they are faced with, I would contend that Haiti isn’t the poorest country on Earth. They are perhaps the richest. They live purely. They live for the day – thankful that they have been given that day to live. They remain hopeful while living through adversity that those of us who have lived a life of privileged excess can’t begin to imagine. They accept their lot in life with an attitude of thankfulness. They care for one another.

We, on the other hand, would never make it in this kind of environment because we would try to blame someone – anyone – so that we can satisfy our sense of entitlement. We wouldn’t deserve this kind of treatment and because we are Americans, we don’t have to take it. Not us, no siree.

Upon returning home we were profoundly embarrassed looking at our world, because we have lived a life of excess. We’ve gotten pretty much everything we have ever wanted. We live in houses that in Haiti would shelter 100 people. We never have to worry about whether we’ll eat today. In fact, we’ll all complain that we don’t have enough. There’s always that next something we don’t have. We’ll continue feeling our sense of entitlement and we’ll continue to make our life about Us. Life for the typical American is just that way; it is comfortable, it is excessive, and that’s just the way we like it.

So which is the poor country and which is the rich one?

Well, I can tell you that we are going to do everything we possibly can to make The Joseph School a reality. We are going to try to refocus the world’s short attention span on this country that is so desperately in need of the most basic services. But at the end of the day we hope we can bring home some lessons about life – for the country we live in.

The poorest country I know.

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Austal

In 2008, shipbuilder Austal, USA received a U.S. Navy contract to build the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). With these contracts, Austal had to ramp up employment from 900 to 2400 persons within 18 months. Although unemployment rates in the area have been in the 9% range, Austal needed to attract a highly-skilled and motivated work force to build these technologically advanced warships. After extensive research identified the target audience as action-oriented “doers,” Lewis Communications created “Do Something Extraordinary” to target this very specific audience.

news
history

Lewis recently completed six new television spots for Alfa Insurance. The spots were shot by director Kevin Donovan and employ a wide range of comedic (and occasionally poignant) moments to illustrate Alfa’s superior value and responsive claims service. This is the fourth year of the ongoing Let’s Talk About Tomorrow campaign the agency crafted for Alfa.