Harrowing back-to-school ad is Sandy Hook Promise's most painful watch yet

Back-To-School Essentials PSA
Back-To-School Essentials PSA

The organization and BBDO launch a sobering PSA on the reality children face in today's schools.

Scissors, new sneakers, and new socks -- back-to-school essentials, or impromptu tools for dealing with a school shooting? 

That is the question posed by The Sandy Hook Promise and BBDO’s latest PSA, aimed at sparking a tough conversation about the rise of mass shootings in the United States, and how to prevent them before they happen. 

"Back-to-School Essentials" starts off as a typical back-to-school commercial, set to the tune of cheery upbeat background music.  

But the sinister reality soon becomes clear, with the kids becoming increasingly agitated, frantic and fearful as they utilize scissors as last-ditch weapons, sweaters to tie doors together, and skateboards to smash open windows to the backdrop of gunshots.

If you buy your daughter a phone for the new school year, you expect her to use it to text you to pick her up from soccer practice, or that she’s staying at a friend’s house -- not to send you a tearful goodbye as a gunman stalks the corridors. But this is our reality.  

The four founding members of the Sandy Hook Promise were all personally affected by the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut seven years ago in which 26 children and educators were gunned down -- many of the victims younger than the child actors portrayed in this PSA. 

"I am hoping this video will ignite more conversations about knowing the signs and result in more demand for Sandy Hook Promise’s no cost, proven violence prevention programs," said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and co-managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, whose son Dylan was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.

The video has so far created a firestorm of discussion as back to school season is in full swing. 

According to Lindsey Cash, SVP senior director at BBDO -- the creative shops behind this ad -- the PSA garnered 26 million views in the 24 hours since its release on September 18. 

That number can definitely be expected to grow, as presidential candidates and members of congress including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio, and others join the conversation on twitter.

"We don't have to accept this as normal," senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, tweeted regarding the PSA. 

But while the back-to-school PSA has already sparked conversation on Capitol Hill, that is not the main objective of The Sandy Hook Project. 

The goal is to prevent gun violence and other forms of violence and victimization before they happen, saving lives with or without any major reforms to gun laws in America. 

Hockley continued: "We wanted to be within the back to school time period because parents need to understand the experience kids are having today in the school environment. They are already practicing active shooter drills in school so why not learn prevention techniques?"

However, she is confident that Congress is listening. 

"I think this will help support the drive to action in Congress," she told Campaign US. 

According to Cash, BBDO and SHP managed to secure more than $2M of donated media to get their message across. 

"We didn’t want to just do a video PSA, we wanted a 360 campaign that hit on multiple aspects of the message. While video is our hero over the next week we’ll be rolling out radio, print, digital banners and outdoor ads," she added. 

New York-based public relations shop Dini von Mueffling Communications helped line up all of the media outlets for the PSA in advance, including the Today Show where it debuted. The firm also handled outreach to all current presidential candidates and other notable figures including the Trump campaign prior to the PSA's launch; however, the Trump Campaign did not respond.  

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