Sometimes, Richmond advertising veteran Doug Burford gets emotionally involved in his company’s projects.
The pro bono campaign developed by his outfit, Burford Advertising Inc., for Children’s Home Society of Virginia is one of those projects.
The campaign involves radio spots and a series of videos that showcase older children who want to be adopted — brief glimpses of their personalities.
Burford, whose agency has been around for 43 years, spent nearly five days working on logistics of the TV spots, directing the shoots, editing the tapes.
“I lose myself in it,” Burford said. “It’s the kind of thing I really want to do.”
One of the videos has a sprinkling of music as a teen named Mark, who wants to become a music professional, asks if he can sing his message, then does just that for a few seconds.
The TV campaign has picked up its first two sponsors, Estes Express Lines and the Dominion Auto Group. The spots will air on WTVR.
Burford has reeled in pro bono partners. BES Studios donated time and equipment to film the spots. John Hartman, whose voice and face have been in local advertising for decades, volunteered to narrate.
“People around here call that getting ‘Burfed.’ I come in with that sad-dog look on my face and ask for your help,” Burford said.
Nadine Marsh-Carter, president and CEO of Children’s Home Society of Virginia, said Burford’s generosity and his knack for soliciting help have allowed the nonprofit organization to expand the campaign.
“At first we didn’t have television spots in our plans,” she said. “We have such limited resources. We were going to do radio because that was a medium we could afford. Having an amazing creative partner helping us on a pro bono basis allows us to do much more.”
Burford has a long history of partnering with child-oriented organizations. His agency worked 18 years for locally based Christian Children’s Fund before it became ChildFund International.
For those who may recall, it was Burford who recruited actor Alan Sader, the gray-bearded man who replaced Sally Struthers in those heart-tugging video pleas for support.
Burford’s connection with agencies that help children goes beyond his professional life. He knows what it means to open a home to an older child.
“Our family has had 12 foster kids,” he explained.
He and his wife have three children of their own, all of whom work at the Burford agency, which is housed in a distinctive building at 125 E. Main St. where Padow’s Ham & Deli once did business.
Children’s Home Society, chartered by the Virginia General Assembly in 1900, contracts with the state Department of Social Services to find adoptive families for children in foster care. The organization has placed more than 12,500 children in permanent homes.
The society’s current publicity campaign is underwritten in part through a grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by Doris Buffett. Her brother, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is owner of Berkshire Hathaway, a subsidiary of which owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch.