Gun-Safety Ad Is Neither Epic nor Amazing

Once Again, Creative Class Forgets the Entire Point of Advertising

By Published on .

Advertising Age Player

I'll say this at the outset. This gun-safety ad from McCann, New York, for Evolve is funny. And it uses its humor to make a pretty good point about the things people keep secured with lock and key.

Two moms at the end of the party are mortified when their children are revealed to be having a sword fight with sex toys. Get it? Most women would keep such embarrassing items well-hidden and locked up. We should do the same with guns!

Like another spot released by Evolve, this would make a great Saturday Night Live skit. But despite breathy claims across the web, as an ad it is not epic. It is not amazing.

In fact, what it is, is pointless.

Who, exactly, is this ad meant to target?

I find it highly unlikely that there's Venn diagram somewhere showing a huge group at the intersection of "owns a gun" and "is likely to respond to an online ad featuring a dildo joke." And I'd bet that those who do fall into that little tiny group are probably among the safest gun owners on the planet.

The thing is, I want to support Evolve, which portrays itself as a third voice in the American gun debate, somewhere between the sort of gung-ho gun nuts who bring their rifles into Target to make a point and those who say "gun control" but really mean "make all guns illegal."

Evolve's mission is gun safety. That and "debate." "Evolve will make safety and saving lives aspirational, through mass media campaigns that ignite conversations," says the website. Ah, yes, the old "ignite conversations" play. It's like "raising awareness" and "sparking debate" and "staging a social-media protest" (and "wasting money").

Is someone out there having a conversation along the lines of "I can keep my gun under my baby's pillow if I want to" or "I think it's perfectly fine to hide my gun in a book bag in Little Jimmy's closet"?

The thing is, the majority of gun owners in the U.S. are a fairly responsible lot.

But, yes, let's concede that there is a substantial group of irresponsible gun owners out there in the world. Maybe they're burnt-out drug users. Maybe they're criminals. Maybe they're just criminally stupid or forgetful. And when you're any of these things with something as deadly as a gun, horrible things can happen.

Are those people going to see this ad? I can't imagine it getting much play in the crack house or meth lab or gang hangout or separatist militia compound or wherever it is you imagine bad guys with guns dwell.

Even if one of these people did, for whatever reason, see this spot, would it change his mind? "Why, those two little sports playing with sex toys make a very good point about gun safety. I will keep my gun under lock and key from now own. Perhaps in a safe under that table with all the Bunsen burners on it. Or behind the case of cough syrup."

Of course, there probably are more than a few slightly daft gun owners who keep guns in ridiculous places or do stupid things with them, but getting through to those sorts of people usually requires something dramatic -- like those anti-smoking ads featuring dying cancer victims or those anti-texting ads featuring death and mayhem.

Sometimes we tend to forget this, but there is a point to advertising. "Creating a conversation" among parties completely irrelevant to the pitch -- you know, like non-gun-owning media folk who love a good dildo joke -- isn't it. The point of advertising is to reach a target and change a mind or make a sale.

This ad, funny as it is, succeeds at neither.

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