And a lot of energy has been expended, it seems, by the founding directors of the Austin-based Peace Council in an effort to get their work in the public eye. It all started about three years ago when Russ, who was then at The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, came up with the idea for two campaigns, one seen here for Ban the Mines, and another, still yet to be polished, aimed at highlighting the subject of prison rape. Curiously, Russ found that neither idea could attract any sort of support or production assistance from national organizations that are tackling these issues. Amnesty International, Stop Prisoner Rape and an international organization dedicated to banning land mines refused to accept the work, for no apparent reason, according to the Peace counselors. "A maze of bureaucracy," explains Ladd, forestalled Russ' progress. They were up against "lots of egos," he adds.
Russ' experiences on the prison rape cause reveal why he and Ladd formed Peace Council in the first place. Two small campaigns he developed were the result of his research on the inmate cause, both of which were rejected by Stop Prisoner Rape. Russ describes one as, simply, photos of models accompanied by letters-genuine detailed descriptions of prison rapes draped in all their violence, fear and self-loathing. (He and his then partner, Fernando Lecca, now an AD at DDB Needham/New York, who has contributed to the campaign, were unable to set up a photo shoot in a correctional facility.) Russ is still supporting the rejected print work, but this time through the Peace Council.
After returning to GSD&M (he had worked there several years ago), Russ, a writer, recruited Ladd, an art director, a little over a year ago and the two have been plowing ahead ever since as their own pro bono bosses, working on their own time and, so far, using their own money. The Peace Council is a tax-exempt, nonprofit Texas corporation with a board of directors, though in reality it's just Russ and Ladd, working in conjunction with GSD&M art director/designer Brett Stiles, who designed the logo and who confers on some of the campaign ideas.
The pair also brought in trial and foundation attorneys to insure their good standing in the corporate world, some of whom, says Russ, are enigmatically conservative. Why go to all this trouble? "The Peace Council grew out of a desire to speak out as executives with consciences," says Ladd. "At our ages"-Russ is 39, Ladd, 35-"we'd like to make a contribution to society. We did not want to ask someone's permission to do so."
The work has still quite a way to go before it makes the impact they're hoping for, however. Texas Monthly has promised a one-page ad for the Ban the Mines campaign, and direct-mail tactics have also been employed. Posters are hanging in businesses in Texas and Georgia as well as in 35 local schools. A Ban the Mines television spot is expected eventually, but the Peacers are not disillusioned with their limited progress. "The Peace Council is a movement," Russ explains emphatically.
There is, of course, a certain cynicism that may be brought to all this. Russ is concerned that the Peace Council is taken seriously by colleagues, which has not always been the case. He mentions complaints he's overheard that he's manipulating a freelance career out of this sidelight, and that the work is disingenuous. Russ and Ladd brush off such criticism with a single-minded confidence in their mission, as they stress the nonprofit status of the foundation, and the fact that the campaigns are financed out of their own pockets.
And what of awards shows? They're going to be there, arguing that it's a great medium for their messages. So far, they've entered one of the Ban the Mines ads in the Andy Awards.
Will the Peace Council, which now also has a volunteerism campaign in the works, provide a full-time career for Russ and Ladd one day? They'd prefer not to