Kids Are Homeless, Too

SAN FRANCISCO A pro bono campaign for Children of Shelters, a charity fighting homelessness among kids, juxtaposes stark images of city life with children’s toys.

The office of DDB here enlisted photographer Dwight Eschliman to shoot the ads. In one execution, a child’s rubber duck floats in a public fountain. Another shows colorful magnetic letters stuck to the side of a filthy Dumpster, instead of a refrigerator. The copy on each ad reads, “San Francisco is home to over 4,000 homeless children.”

The agency did not use a location scout, instead sending its staff to find ideal sites in San Francisco, said Dustin Smith, creative director on the campaign for nonprofit Children of Shelters. The photography was shot late at night, until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, he said.

He said the Dumpster image was photographed behind a film lab, and the production crew found about 15 homeless people there, lying under cardboard boxes, sleeping.

“It made you nervous, and some felt a little menacing,” Smith said. “But we are trying to help children not end up like that.”

The campaign consists of four print executions. Tribal DDB/SF handled the interactive portion of the campaign; local shop Schawk was responsible for all retouching and digital imaging of the photography as well as production of all direct mail pieces.

Eschliman was chosen based on his work for Hewlett-Packard, Converse and Absolut, according to the agency.

Smith said he did not want to use kids in the ads.

“We wanted to dimensionalize the terrible circumstances without exploiting the children themselves,” he said.

Smith, art director Kelly Colchin and copywriter Jon Lancaric developed the campaign’s concept.

“We thought that taking the pictures in the middle of the night with the simple message of ‘San Francisco being home to over 4,000 homeless children’ was an immediate and telegraphic way for consumers to grasp the problem,” Smith added.

The out-of-home work breaks Monday in San Francisco for a six- to eight-week run. Online, direct mail and guerilla marketing are other components, with children’s toothbrushes and rubber ducks carrying the charity’s message placed at drinking and water fountains throughout the city.

Jenny Le Coq, executive vice president of Children of Shelters, said the goal is to have people look at homelessness in a new way.

“Most San Franciscans believe that the homeless are adults standing on corners with cups,” Le Coq said, “but in reality the fastest-growing segment of homeless are children and families.”