• In the News

    McKinney and Johnnie Semerad zero in on homelessness

    June 21, 2009 SHOOT

    A big message in the form of tiny figurines.

    Using stop frame animation, the camera moves forward highlighting a slice of life on a city block. We see people walking about, others sitting and cavorting at a sidewalk cafe, some engaged in window shopping, others just hanging out.

    Yet as the camera proceeds and gets closer to the people, it then moves beyond them to an alleyway and finally zeros in on something very tiny and at first not recognizable. Finally getting an ever closer, more revealing look, we see tiny figurines of homeless people about the size of a small piece of litter. In this spot the figurines are of a mother, a baby and small child, accompanied by a small sign that reads, 'Need food please. Homeless.'

    A message appears on screen, which reads, 'Ignoring Homelessness Won't Make It Go Away.' An end tag displays the logo for Urban Ministries of Durham (N.C.). A slogan appears'Food, clothing and a future,' directing potential donors to umdurham.org.

    Entitled 'Family,' this is one of two similarly styled and themed PSAs, the other being 'Veteran' in which the camera takes us along a sidewalk, showing us folks going about their business, oblivious to another tiny figurinethat of a male war vet amputee propped on two crutches. He is accompanied by a sign, 'War vet, need help.'

    Taking it to the streets

    Print, web and out-of-home initiatives also reinforce the campaign's message, out of North Carolina ad agency McKinney. The out-of-home segment took place during a recent weekend in Durham. On a busy Durham street, many people might pass by a homeless person without having any kind of interaction. However, at several points around Durham, people got the chance to notice on the sidewalk a small sign that reads, 'Ignoring homelessness won't make it go away.' At the base of the sign, the homeless figurines were placed, prompting some people to squat down to look carefully at the scene, then speak with others about what they are seeing.

    'That might be someone's first real connection with homelessness,' said Jonathan Cude, chief creative officer of McKinney, who led a team of United Ministries of Durham volunteers at posts nearby to handout information about volunteering or donating to the organization.

    The campaign is the result of a collaborative partnership among United Ministries of Durham, McKinney, animator/director Johnnie Semerad of New York studio Semerad, Oscar-winning songwriter Marketa Irglova and Grammy-winning music/sound design company Endless Noise, Santa Monica, Calif.

    'After watching these spots or seeing these print ads, it will be hard for anyone to ignore the issue of homelessness,' said Cude who teamed with art director Philip Marchington, copywriter Jenny Nicholson and producer Josh Eggleston on the campaign shot on location in Durham.

    Eggleston's ability to form a 'dream team' overnight was also an indicator that believing can create extraordinary results. In addition to Semerad and Irglova's contributions, he cited music production company Endless Noise and Jeff Elmassian, who recorded Irglova's single, 'The Hill' from the hit movie, 'Once.' 'Any major marketer would be thrilled to have this brilliant team work on behalf of their brand.'