Advertising can be a powerful tool when it wants to be. Years ago, one of my first assignments was to do a PSA for the Ad Council to address the riots in LA after the Rodney King beating. My art director, Geoff Edwards, and I came up with a campaign that was called, “Stop The Hate.”
The 30-second spot featured babies lying in a hospital delivery room next to each other and a voice-over said, “Here’s one time it doesn’t matter who your neighbor is. Next came a barrage of hate-filled scenes. We then ended fading up on a cemetery and the voice-over grimly said, “Here’s the other.” That was in 1991 when I was first starting my advertising career. I have seen that same spot from the Ad Council running on late night 20-something years later.
Today, we have a different problem. Oh, be sure that we still have hate. But that hate has been taken to the next level with the escalation of automatic weapons to cause havoc.
Since 2000, there have been more than 188 mass shootings at schools and universities according to the Washington Post. (It’s hard to cite a definitive number, because the federal government does not study gun violence in the United States. The National Rifle Association has opposed any measure to fund research.)
More than 200 students have been killed. At least 200 more have been injured.
This has not been lost on a group of advertising creatives who are now using their talents to call for gun safety. The results are two powerful campaigns.
The first campaign, “Bulletproof Junior,” created by a group of agency employees at 180LA, Digitas, Y&R, HUGE NY and MullenLowe, is a fake website that uses shocking visuals and copy to draw attention the #NeverAgain movement. It’s a non-partisan social media campaign and website, whose hallmark includes bulletproof vests for “sale,” which feature steel inserts to prevent AR-15 bullets from entering.
Prices for the vests reflect the dates of real school shootings and their respective age groups. For instance, the toddler price of $1,214.12, is for Dec. 14, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that left 26 dead.
Product details will send a chill up any reader’s spine — the toddler vest claims to play nursery rhymes “to soothe your child’s pounding heart rate” for example, and is machine washable but “hand wash only” for blood stains. Meanwhile the teen vest has integrated bluetooth speakers. All are advertised as coming with a free replacement “if shot within the first two months of purchase.”
When individuals select the “buy” button, the real message is revealed asking them to take action. Participants enter their zip code which automatically populates a tweet directed to his or her Senators, imploring them to take action. In addition to tweeting at Senators to make change, website visitors can sign up to vote, donate blood through the American Red Cross or donate to March for Our Lives.
Reel Chicago had a chance to speak briefly with 180LA copywriter Caleb Couturie.
REEL CHICAGO: This is a great project, Caleb. Congrats.
CALEB COUTURIE: Thanks for taking an interest in our project.
RC: How did the project come about?
CC: The project was a response to a seemingly endless trend of school shootings. Our group was collectively frustrated with not only the shootings themselves, but also our government’s inaction to put an end to the violence. Especially after watching the Parkland kids amazing response to their attack, we just had a goal to create a project that could compliment all the action items they were calling for.
RC: How did you manage to get everyone (from different agencies) to team up ?
CC: It was a perfect storm, honestly. I’m a University of Oregon graduate, and through my network I reached out to my friend Harley, who within a few days had assembled an entire team. My AD partner at 180, and a former developer I had worked with, all decided to jump on board as well. Everyone was very engaged from the start, and I’m just so proud to call all these people my friends now because they seriously worked tirelessly over a short time to get this project done.
RC: How did the parents feel about casting their kids in something like this?
CC: The kids weren’t casted, they were stock images purchased from Getty. We would’ve loved to get real kids, but mocks had to suffice given our timeline.
RC: Can you talk to me about timeline? How many ideas did you go through before settling on this?
CC: After Parkland, we were all distraught. We felt helpless, and we just desperately wanted to do something to aid the movement. With the March For Our Lives coming up, we set a goal to get the site live right before. From start to finish, we got everything done in just under three weeks. We worked through a few early ideas, but we collectively agreed that Bulletproof Junior was the most effective way to get our ideal message across (enough is enough).
RC: Have you received any blowback from the NRA or other groups?
CC: We haven’t received much blowback at all, outside of a few Twitter/Facebook trolls here and there. We understand the project is controversial, but when people take the time to understand the true message of the site, most people seem to get behind it. Our main goal from the start was to create a bi-partisan message that, regardless of policy or party, could hold legislators accountable for a lack of action. Words and sentiments weren’t enough to us, and we feel it’s important the entirety of Congress understands that nice words aren’t going to cut it anymore. It’s either they take action, or we vote them out in the next election.
To see the site, click here.
Veterans For Gun speak up for gun reform in new PSA
MikeTeevee Executive Producer Ellen Utrecht teamed up with Writer/Director and Veteran Kyle Hausmann-Stokes and Cut+Run editor Ben McCambridge to craft a persuasive and powerful PSA for Veterans for Gun Reform.
The PSA stars military veterans of all genders, ages, ethnicities and military backgrounds. Their message is clear, “…we carried the M4/M16, we know its power first hand, and there is no reason it should be for sale in this country.” Watch below:
The Reel also had a chance to speak with Miketeevee Executive Producer Ellen Utrecht. Here’s what she had to say about the project.
REEL CHICAGO: Ellen, this spot is amazing. How did the project come about?
ELLEN UTRECHT: While having dinner with Damien Bradfield of Wetransfer, we came to the subject of gun violence in the USA, specifically in schools. We both feel that we have a responsibility to create positive change in the communities we exist within, he offered Miketeevee, media space on their platform for a whole week, if we created a film on the subject of Gun Reform. We wanted to support the Florida kids in anyway we could and drive as many people to the March for our lives event as we could.
By chance I met Kyle Hausman-Stokes a Director & Veteran, in a conversation about his view on the current gun laws in the US, I was surprised to hear that he was in fact for Gun reform. I asked him if he would care to be involved, he wrote a script which I thought very strong and from there with the help of my advertising and creative network on we produced the PSA, the website & ads within 10 days.
RC: How did you get the veterans to participate?
EU: We were helped by Pixie Monroe, a Veteran Affairs consultant for the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) which is a combination of Washington’s lawmakers, Hollywood’s filmmakers and medical/mental health professionals from across the US. Kyle is the Founder of http://vftla.org/ (veterans in media & entertainment) he was able to post an “ad” asking for Vets who would want to participate in this PSA. Within a day we had more than 2000 Vets apply and express their want to help out.
RC: You said you just moved here. Were you shocked about the amount of mass shootings?
EU: As a mother of two daughters attending elementary school, I was shocked by the amount of shootings that happen in schools across America, like any parent I want my children to worry only about their education, fun they have with their friends, not about violence among children.
RC: Have you received any blowback from the NRA or other groups? I saw a couple of not-too-complimentary postings of the video on YouTube?
EU:There will always be blowback from certain individuals, they have the right to their opinion, but the overall feedback has been very positive.
With domestic mass shootings now claiming more lives than any other form of terrorism, and in the wake of yet another senseless school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the voices of advertising creatives such as these can carry more weight than ever. The debate on gun control is complicated. These two campaigns hopefully simplify the conversation by just a little bit.
Campaign: BulletProof Junior
Art Direction & Design – Jason Murray (Y&R NY)
Design – Yugendu Vyas (180LA)
Copywriting – Caleb Couturie (180LA), Chris Puma (HUGE NY)
Strategy – Harley Garner (Digitas)
Account & Production – Davina Hamilton (Digitas)
Development – Rudy Perez (MullenLowe LA)
Campaign: Veterans for Gun Control
Production Company: MikeTeevee
Writer/Director: Kyle Hausmann-Stokes
Producer: Ellen Utrecht
Cinematographer: Sean Conaty
Production Design: Paula Loos
Production Manager: Jordan Levine
Editor: Ben McCambridge
Managing Partner: Michelle Eskin
EP: Amburr Farls
Producer: Evan Cunningham
Music: Human Music
Color: Beau Leon, Framestore,
Still Photography: Audrey Ma
Contact Colin Costello at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.