No More Mr. Nice Guy: PSA Campaign Reveals the Brutal Duplicity of Abusers

When love quickly turns to its opposite

You'll want to wipe that smile off his face.

Lowe Campbell Ewald's chilling new public-service campaign for Haven, a Michigan nonprofit that assists victims of rape and domestic violence, strips away the "Mr. Nice Guy" veneer to reveal the threat lurking behind the disarming grins and sweet talk that abusers use to confuse and control their victims.

"I'll be really nice," begins a happy-faced dude in the spot, below directed by Oscar winner Angus Wall. But he turns out to be anything but. His mood swing is understated and utterly convincing, especially in the Ray Rice era, when heroes can be revealed as villains in the few seconds it takes for a surveillance camera to capture their shameful acts.

"This highly emotional approach will resonate with our audience," says agency creative chief Mark Simon. "Our hope is that it reaches those who are suffering and provides them with the knowledge that help is out there."

The tagline is "Live without fear," yet for a campaign all about escaping terror, there's plenty of it here. Still, the message—across all media—is powerful. One print ad entwines the phrase "I'm crazy about you" with "You crazy bitch," while a bus-shelter poster (perhaps the campaign's best execution) features the headline "I Love You"—which, upon closer inspection, is actually composed of hundreds of tiny threats like "You're gonna pay for this" and "If I can't have you, nobody can."

By focusing on the mind-set of perps, Haven puts the blame in the only place it belongs. "It is the choice and actions of the abuser that causes abuse," says Beth Morrison, the organization's CEO. "The victim is never at fault."


Client: Haven

Agency: Lowe Campbell Ewald

Chief Creative Officer: Mark Simon

Group Creative Director: David Bierman

Art Director: Kelly Warkentien

Copywriter: Nancy Wellinger

Producer: Mary Ellen Krawczyk

Account Executives: Joe Gaulzetti, Nicole Reincke, Alyssa DeYonker

Production Company: Elastic

Director: Angus Wall

Director of Photography: Eric Treml

Executive Producer: Jennifer Sofio Hall

Line Producer: Shanah Blevins

Editing House: Rock Paper Scissors

Editor: David Brodie

Audio Mix: Lime

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.