There’s No Excuse for Domestic Violence: A Senior Thesis Project

With Commencement soon approaching, seniors at Gordon College are making strides in their senior thesis projects. Senior thesis projects are a time to showcase skills and knowledge accumulated throughout four years of college. Communication Arts Senior Ethan Kilgore is creating a senior project that goes far beyond Gordon and does more than simply showcase his talents. Kilgore is working on a comprehensive advertising campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence. Kilgore’s project is different because he is focusing on more than traditional anti-domestic violence campaigns focus on.

Advertising has always been something that Kilgore has been passionate about, so it is no surprise that advertising is where he would invest his time during his senior year. He currently serves as a designer for the Campus Events Council, Student Design Agency, and interns at Return Design. Nicholas Roes ’15, Publicity Director for the Campus Events Council and Student Design Agency Director said, “Ethan’s work reflects his concern and sensitivity to simplicity and detail.” His job at Return Design offers him the opportunity to design and create advertising pro bono for non-profits and deserving businesses. It was at Return Design where he developed a passion for the subject of domestic abuse and ultimately came up with the idea for his senior thesis project.

It was while working for a firm that Kilgore decided to change his senior thesis project. Originally, he was developing an advertising campaign for a snow boot company. However, after learning about the impacts of anti-domestic violence advertising, he knew he wanted to change his project. He said that he wanted to produce something that meant more than just more advertising material to be printed. Kilgore and his project participants believe that it is an important and worthy cause to create advertising that means more than just product promotion and sales.

One of the most distinctive overarching features of Kilgore’s project is the change in perspective that he offers. He noticed that all of the domestic violence awareness campaigns in the mainstream media mainly offer one perspective- that of a woman being abused by a man. Kilgore wanted to raise even more awareness and show that domestic abuse is not limited to one type of relationship. His project aims to incorporate and transcend four main things- sexuality, gender, race and age. The public’s awareness of the issue tends to not include a diverse pool of people, and Kilgore is working to change that.

The project is a fully comprehensive multimedia campaign and contains a few different elements. Kilgore is currently working on two print advertisements, two videos/commercials, and a radio advertisement. His goal in having his campaign available in so many outlets is to reach the most people through broad exposure.

Because this is a technically an academic project, Kilgore is working with little-to-no budget and must find actors and models who are willing to volunteer their time. Kilgore is working with his friends and other Gordon students to help his vision become a reality. He said that finding actors and models has been hard for a variety of reasons. Because he is trying to find people of varying ages, races, genders and sexuality, he has faced limited options at Gordon. However, in these final days he has found people willing to help him complete the project. Hillary Rogers ’15 said, “I think that what he is doing is so powerful because he is a man, and the way he is doing it is in a way that is so subtle yet so powerful.” Christian Sosa ’15 is another one of his models/actors and he believes this project is important because the male voice is often silent in this discussion.

The first print advertisement is for the inside of a subway tunnel. The goal of this advertisement series is to show the rapid change that can occur when someone is the victim of domestic abuse. This would be done by hanging giant posters in the tunnels, each with a different picture. Each poster will feature the same woman. Initially, it will just be a normal shot of her, and each poster will be subsequently worse than the last. Kilgore will be editing on different bruises and cuts to photos of a model in order to create this.

The second print advertisement for Kilgore’s campaign is intended for a magazine and would take up two full pages. The first page would be a regular headshot of a woman, and immediately following that on the next page would be the same woman, just with the edited abrasions added on. This second page will include the tagline “just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there”.

Ethan Kilgore’s main commercial.

Kilgore is also planning two video-based advertisements for the campaign. The first video will feature four actors simply making excuses for domestic violence. These excuses range from “we were both drunk” to “my family does not see divorce as an option.” The point of this video is to promote the tagline for the whole campaign- “there is no excuse for domestic violence.”

Despite finding actors and having everything come together in the end, challenges still exist with the project. For many people, the images in this campaign trigger a variety of emotions and responses from viewers and the participants. One model had a strong reaction to seeing herself in the position of a domestic abuse victim. Kilgore has had to work within some restrictions as to not cause an extremely adverse reaction from viewers. Along with that challenge, he has had to ask himself if these strong reactions help or hinder his goals, and how he can work within those confines.

Kilgore is wrapping up production on this project and will showcase his work on May 5 at the Communication Arts Senior Exhibition. He currently has no plans to officially launch the campaign in any professional setting, but he is not opposed to working on this subject in the future. His models and actors are still in full support of his mission and are looking forward to seeing the finished project.

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