Still Images In Great Advertising, is a new column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

Sometimes it amazes me what a small world it is in this business. I was asked to write an article for Resource Magazine on “Reps for Hire” and reached out to Frank Meo, Clare O’dea and Jess at Wondeful Machine. In the bios for “reps for hire”, Frank Meo of, mentions an example of hiring of drug consultant for a pro-bono project. Then weeks later, I am researching powerful still images in advertising and I come across the work of Ron Haviv and “The Meth Project”. I reach out to Ron and he includes Frank in the conversation of how the project was shot. Small world, or what?

Suzanne: These are incredibly compelling images- are these real users? if so, how did you find them? How did you gain their trust?

Frank: The kids in the ads are not real users of the drug. We did our casting via high school students and with some great casting contacts from our producer, Tricia Moran from Branching Out Productions. We got their trust by Ron, as always, being involved right from the start. This I believe was one of key elements to the success of the campaign. The kids, right from the video casting got direction from him. I’m sure that the familiarity between Ron and the talent from the earliest stages played a intricate role in getting these kids to buy into the concept.

Then we hired a drug consultant to be part of our team. This too was a major factor is the success of the campaign. Having a recovering addict on set was in an intriguing way a stabilizing force. His presence brought gravitas to the entire experience. Who better then a person who’s been to hell to convey what that trip is like?

Several other points about this:

1. In the five print and TV bids that the agency received no one else put in for a drug consultant.
2. This idea and results were so well received by the client and agency that they reached out to us for his contact information – they hired our guy for the TV shoot!
3. I’m positive it was this line item that secured us in winning the project.

Suzanne: I understand this is a pro-bono campaign but did the client realize the costs involved to pull this off? And what has the impact of these images had on the Meth problem where they were run?

Ron: This is I think the 6th version of this campaign. By many accounts the impact on meth and potential meth users is enormous. Research has shown that in the past there has been an effect on reducing meth usage where the campaign has been shown.

Frank: The client was great – right from the start. The realized that this was going to cost money to produce. I’m sure that the agency, Organic is the reason for this. From the outside looking in you could see the mutual respect in this client / agency relationship. After working in this business for many years you know a good fit when you see one. More to the point, I believe there’s a direct correlation between great work and a great clients – we were sure glad to be part of this.

The results from the images have been amazing. From all quarters we heard positive reactions. Most importantly the client sees them as “authentic”. The client knows their audience better then anyone. That single comment to Ron and I is the most beautiful music we could hear. Authentic is why I want people to hire Ron.

Suzanne: You have a photojournalistic style that does get you hired for campaigns like IBM, Intel, BAE Systems and ESPN- how do you create that natural feel while staying true to your documentary roots? Do you work with the same producer?

Ron: While each campaign has been different, the client’s overriding desire is for the capturing or recreating moments of reality. Working with a light footprint and letting the subjects, whether models or real life, become immersed and unaware of the camera is about as true to my documentary roots as I can be. The trick in doing so is reaching that point when you have the client and the creative team working with you hand in hand. When it works I feel the results have a great effect.

I’ve been lucky enough to do most of my campaigns with the same producer (Tricia Moran) who has helped me take the projects to the highest level possible.

Frank: All the clients you mentioned and American Express hire Ron based on a rather simple premise. They want reality based imagery. They want to know that he can produce the job at a high commercial level and that he wants to shoot for them. My job, as I see it is to eradicate any doubts and bring insight to how Ron approaches each job.

I believe the results seen on his website and my reputation as a commercial rep does that. Let’s face it, being one of the most respected photo journalists of our time is heavy stuff. I understand that. I must convey to the client that Ron embraces each project with passion and genuine understanding of each clients needs and their audience. Further I also ask Ron to write a creative brief as part of our presentation/estimate/bid offering. This too was part of our successful presentation for the Crystal Meth project.

Our producer, Tricia Moran and Ron work extremely well together as they both see the world the same way. She too is someone who “gets it” and has become an incredible reliable resource for Ron and myself. Having someone whom can produce, inspire and has a “get-it-done” attitude is a tremendous asset to all involved.

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

Ron Haviv is the co-founder for the photo agency VII and has been producing images of conflict and humanitarian crises since the end of the Cold War.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

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  1. PLEASE NOTE: Pro-bono is not always “free” work. Pro-bono is usually work that comes to creative folks to gain awareness to a cause with money to produce it. Some projects have very little money while others have good budgets. The importance is doing great work for causes so that they can gain awareness to their projects. A lot of times the agency does the concepts for free but do not require the same of the vendors.

  2. These came out great. We saw the comps for this shoot (but sadly had to decline before getting too far) and can say Ron definitely hit what they were going for. Well done sir.

  3. It’s Ron Haviv day! It’s great to see his range. I love seeing commercial work from documentary photographers. Thanks for featuring this one.

  4. This is going to be a great column. The background info adds to the knowledge base for others, including myself to learn from. I have always like Ron’s work. Thx.

    • Thanks so much Ron!!! This is my baby because I love photography, I love advertising and I love helping folks learn the process. It has been really rewarding reaching out to folks to ask specific questions about them and the process!!!

      All the best to you!!!

  5. Frank is so right, it is amazing what can be done when everyone “Get’s it”. A tip of the hat to all vision and energy that went into this project.

  6. Suzanne, thank you for this! I had the privilege of taking part in three different panel discussions with Ron Haviv at NYC Expo over the last few years, and this past year’s panel by the VII Agency was really powerful. It takes a lot of courage, not only to be a photojournalist but also to take a stand and firmly believe in, and defend what one is actually trying to say with their photography. What happened in Belgrade at the “Blood and Honey” photo exhibition in Serbia is just one example of it. Listening to these guys talk about their projects has been very inspiring. It is a good and still very independent voice today. And there always be organizations and big NGOs to hire photographers like Ron Haviv. Not only for his talent but for who he is. Once again, great column!

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