Mohawk SmartStrand and Babies Make for Drama

August 12, 2010

By Barbara Goldman

Nathan Schroder

Recently, Mohawk Flooring teamed up with their ad agency of record Cramer-Krasselt of Milwaukee, WI, to produce a new campaign for their Mohawk SmartStrand line that even a baby could love.

“This is the second year of Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpet campaign. SmartStrand is this incredibly stain-resistant carpet, yet still beautiful and soft. The campaign is designed to show off the extraordinary nature of this carpet in a fashionable way,” says Chris Buhrman, VP/Creative Director of Cramer-Krasselt. “If one baby with a juice glass equaled regular stain resistance, then we needed 15. There has to be that “yikes!” moment but it has to look stylish.”

The Cramer-Krasselt team very cleverly conveyed the anticipation of seeing fifteen babies on beautiful carpeting with open glasses of red juice, and they did it without ever showing an actual spill. The C-K creatives for the latest SmartStrand campaign consisted of SVP/Exec. Creative Director Chris Jacobs, VP/Creative Dir. Buhrman, Art Director Brian Steinseifer and Art Buyer Karen Kirsch. Kirsch brought in photographer Nathan Schroder for the job. This was the first time Schroder worked with the agency. Kirsch spotted Schroder’s work for Prairie Vodka in PDN magazine a few years ago. They were looking for a fashion shooter who would let the environment play as much a role as clothes and models, and they were also looking to infuse a little more drama – something a little darker and moodier than what they had done previously with the brand.

Schroder became their photographer of choice with his unique combination of fashion sensibility, technical expertise and budget sensitivity. He has a distinct point of view. He lets his photos tell the story, and they capture the essence of a client’s message – the very thing they love about his work. Schroder likes to works in a team environment and has a passion for perfection. That work ethic trickles down to his team, from crew to assistants to stylists, making the production highly skilled in every aspect and enjoyable at the same time.

On this project the challenges were 15-fold with Schroder having to figure out how to shoot a lot of babies in one room. “We needed to have a room that they could spread out in and still have furniture that allowed them to achieve some height so that we didn’t have 15 babies all on the same plain. We didn’t want all the babies clogging up the middle ground of the photograph, while leaving the rest of the image void of potential disaster-causing babies. The client also had some very specific request[s] regarding the room that we needed to work around,” he explains. They wanted to be sure that the environment used was one that Mohawk’s clientele would identify with.

Once Schroder and the creatives settled on a library setting, he had to figure out how to get 15 babies to hold open juice glasses filled with red juice without having them spill the liquid on the set. After discussing this with food stylist Angela Yeung, they both agreed that Jell-O filled glasses were the optimal way to go. The Jell-O would allow them to have the glass filled with a solid that looked like a liquid. Stylist Yeung even made some with the liquid level at an angle to mimic a glass being tipped to one side. In the end, Schroder opted to shoot only glasses with level-liquid levels. “Realizing we would have very little control over how the babies would hold the glasses, I decided it would be easier to create a slanted liquid level than to adjust one that was going in the opposite direction of the tilted glass,” says Schroder.

The babies were the next logistical issue. Schroder needed to end up with 15 babies in the final shot but there was no way he could shoot all of them at one time. He decided to shoot each baby individually and assemble them in the final image. “When you shoot kids under a certain age, you always need to have a backup just in case the child breaks down once they get on set and refuses to cooperate,” explains Schroder. This of course meant that he had to have at least 2 babies ready to be shot at all times, plus a backup for each of those two babies in case they melted on set. His Producer Susanne Lancaster masterfully crafted a schedule that enabled him to shoot 15 individual babies in one day. Only one of the babies refused to cooperate and had to be switched out for the backup. When it came to coaxing them as to what was needed, baby wranglers Sharlene Whitney and Amy Tarbel got the job done with incredible expertise. They were even able to facilitate the capturing of a baby up on a ladder. As Schroder attests, “I swore I would not divulge their secrets but the baby was never in danger.”

The new images for Mohawk Flooring are now being used in national print ads in major home design and décor books such as Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and House Beautiful. Schroder, his team and the C-K creatives were all so effective that they never got these babies to “spill baby spill.” You can see more of Nathan Schroder’s work at and read his blog at

Mohawk SmartStrand “Baby” Credits:
Client: Mohawk Flooring
Agency: Cramer-Krasselt/Milwaukee
SVP/Executive Creative Director: Chris Jacobs
VP/Creative Director: Chris Buhrman
Art Director: Brian Steinseifer
Copywriter: Sandy DerHovsepian
Art Buyer: Karen Kirsch
Director Creative Services, Mohawk: Lindsey Waldrep
Photographer: Nathan Schroder