(RIP Mark David Norris)
There's tragic news coming from Philly today. Mark Norris, the head of the ad agency behind the controversial HIV prevention social marketing campaign "Have You Been Hit?", featuring young black men in the cross hairs of a sniper's rifle, was gunned down earlier this week. His brother and a business partner were also murdered, perhaps over a financial deal gone bad.
Even though I strongly objected to the offensive ads and deplored the company that created them, with public dollars from the Philly health department, I am of course deeply saddened that Norris' life has ended so violently.
Two lessons I take away from this story is there are simply too many guns on our streets and weapons are not the answer to resolving differences.
From today's Philly Inky story:
Mark David Norris, who was killed Monday in the boardroom of his Navy Yard marketing company, was an entrepreneur who projected a stylish image and the sense that he had an inside line on the next big business trend. [...]
Others say there were clues that Norris, 46, of Pilesgrove, N.J., the president and chief executive of Zigzag Net Inc., may have operated several businesses too close to the margins. Police say Norris, his brother and a business partner were killed by an investor who claimed they had defrauded him.
According to public records, state and federal tax agencies have filed liens against Zigzag for nearly $180,000 in back taxes and unemployment compensation.
And some who knew Norris said his business deals often seemed fragile.
"He always played very close to the edge," said John Serpentelli, 42, an animation artist who was Norris' romantic partner for seven years. "He was very charismatic and convincing." [...]
Police said Vincent J. Dortch, 44, of Newark, Del., gunned down Norris and his brother Robert E. Norris, and their business partner James M. Reif Jr., over allegations that they had misspent his investment on an Upstate New York conference center they were rebuilding.
The eldest of four brothers, Mark Norris went to school at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. He dropped out in his freshman year, early in 1979, and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He came to Philadelphia as a Marine recruiter. After his discharge, the self-taught artist began producing and selling paintings to galleries, Serpentelli said. From the art world, he migrated into marketing. [...]
"The man was talented," said Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, who met Norris after the artist fashioned a new logo for Philadelphia International Airport, where Segal is on the board of directors.
Though he acknowledged to friends that he was gay, Norris did not trumpet his orientation because he said it could be bad for business, Serpentelli said.
Two years ago, Norris and another man moved into a two-story stucco house in the Thoroughbred Homes development in Pilesgrove, a village in Salem County. [...]
Last year, the company won a Philly Gold Award for best public service advertising campaign for its "Tough Choices" Web site to encourage at-risk African American youths and others make responsible choices about HIV-AIDS.
But a $236,000 HIV-AIDS campaign Norris designed last year for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health that equated high-risk sexual behavior to gun violence was criticized by gay, African American and AIDS activists, who called it insensitive. In response to the uproar, the city pulled the plug on the campaign.
Click here to read the full Inky piece. And this is one of the images from the controversial HIV prevention campaign Norris created last year.