'Not a Gun' campaign revisits the specter of police shootings

Goodby Silverstein & Partners creates video, print and outdoor ads to support Courageous Conversation Global Foundation's bias and de-escalation programs.

A chilling video, print and outdoor campaign will draw attention to police shootings of black people and hope to spur officers to seek training for unconscious racial bias and de-escalation techniques. 

Goodby Silverstein & Partners created the pro-bono campaign, "Not a Gun," to support the Courageous Conversation Global Foundation (CCGF), an award-winning protocol to help people engage in positive interracial dialogue. The film was produced by Rakish and directed by Kevin Foley.

The campaign, running through March 22 in Austin, Texas, includes broadcast, outdoor, print and digital media, overlapping SXSW. 

It is scheduled for Austin because the city’s former assistant police chief, Justin Newsom, reportedly used racial slurs late last year. 

The creative was inspired by tensions in recent years between African Americans and police departments. Goodby cites the police shooting of Stephon Clark, who was holding not a gun, but a cellphone when shot by police. The agency also cited the controversial deaths of Trayvon Martin, who’d gone out to buy candy, later dying due to a violent altercation with a suspicious neighbor; and Eric Brown, whose death occurred as New York City officers held him in an aggressive chokehold during an arrest for selling cigarettes. 

"For a black man, a routine traffic stop shouldn’t make you feel all alone and make you wonder if you’ll walk away alive," said Anthony O’Neill, an associate creative director at GS&P in a statement. "I’m hopeful this campaign can make an impact where it needs to and save lives."

The "Not a Gun" video shows a series of white people entering a food mart, each buying a candy bar. A black customer enters, but when he orders the same candy bar, the clerk pushes a gun across the counter, suggesting unconscious bias turns mundane items into weapons, in the hands of black males.

"As a black man, you often have to think twice about ordinary actions. That’s what played in my head one night when I came home from a night out. I emptied my hoodie and jacket pockets and neatly organized all the things I had on the table—Mentos, keys, metal wallet—and said to myself, I’m lucky to have not gotten stopped by the police," said O’Neill.

He added: "It’s a crazy question to ask yourself, but it’s not that crazy considering you hear on the news that another black man was killed while unarmed. That’s just how I thought about it in that moment. So when I got to the office the next morning, I shared the thought with my creative partner, Rony Castor, and the rest is history, and ‘Not a Gun’ was born." 

The campaign was devised to not only draw attention to such tragic events but to aim for solutions to unconscious bias in society. 

The effort is also meant to drive people to the Not a Gun website, where visitors can undertake unconscious bias education and sign a petition encouraging police to do the same.  

The video will run on OTT connected devices and local broadcast and cable in Austin. Billboards in Austin will be in well-trafficked spots, such as on "The Drag" or Guadalupe Street, across from the University of Texas and near popular hangouts, like Torchy’s Tacos. Print is set for the Austin Chronicle.

Posters will go up in local libraries and gathering spots. The media placement is devised to encourage grassroots support and social sharing.  

The Goodby team intends to connect with people during SXSW, as well, to explore potential partnerships to support the campaign.

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