One thousand billboards across the country, including two massive ones in Times Square, have been created to tackle gun violence. A call-to-action from the magazine Advertising Age to its advertising/creative community resulted in an outpouring of ideas to magnify the students’ messages and support the recent March for Our Lives.
Outfront Media, an out-of-home media company, partnered with Advertising Age on the billboards after seeing the selected submissions on the publication’s website. “It’s enough already,” says Brian Braiker, editor of Ad Age. “We are flexing our own marketing muscle to help get strong creative into the streets to amplify the energy that the students have inspired.” Ad Age partnered with the Gun Safety Alliance on the creative brief. I spoke to Braiker about why the initiative was triggered by his magazine. To see the posters, go here.
Is there a personal motivation for AdAge to be involved with the anti-gun violence movement?
Nothing personal in that I don’t have anyone that I know who has been harmed or affected by gun violence, thank goodness. It’s personal in that I’m fed up. I’ve been at my daughter’s school when they had a lockdown drill. I hate that it’s become normalized for them—I have a 12- and a 9-year-old. I hate that I can’t tell them with complete confidence that they are safe in their own schools. They were the same age as the Sandy Hook victims, a day that utterly broke my heart. It drives me insane how lax the gun laws are—out of all proportion to what the 2nd amendment protects. I feel powerless to do anything meaningful about this—our country has an illness. A sick obsession with weapons. All of the statistics back up one simple fact: More guns equals more deaths. The more destructive those guns, the more catastrophic the mass casualties. So this is my tiny attempt to try to do something about an issue that i find depressing and enraging. To be clear, though, this particular project is more about violence in school—protecting our kids—than it is about arguing for gun control.
What has the response been to these billboards?
I live in the bubble that is Brooklyn New York. I grew up in the bubble that is Los Angeles. So, for me the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t know any sane person who would say, “No, actually, I support shooting kids in school.” A few tweets have suggested that Ad Age is swimming outside its lane. However, we’ve been aligned against gun violence since 1968, in the aftermath of RFK and MLK’s murders.
Knowing how hot an issue this is, has there been any controversy in the communities in which the billboards hang?
I haven’t heard of any.
Has there been a quantifiable outcome from these signs?
Not yet. It wasn’t about a specific KPI though. It was about adding a voice to the choir and taking a stand, however symbolic.