Sandy Hook Promise's harrowing 'Back-to-School Essentials' wins the 2020 Outstanding Commercial Emmy
In September of last year, as kids prepared to return to their classrooms after summer break, Sandy Hook Promise debuted a “back-to-school” ad that started out as a typically saccharine promo about kids and their must-buy goods. But it soon turned harrowing to highlight the gear they needed to protect themselves in case of a school shooting incident, underscoring the threat of gun violence they face every day at U.S. schools.
A year after the debut of “Back-to-School Essentials,” the Academy of Television Arts and Science bestowed the ad with the 2020 Emmy for Outstanding Commercial.
In a virtual ceremony last night that was part of the Academy’s Creative Arts Emmy presentations, the spot faced particularly stiff competition.
The others vying for the award included Jeep’s popular “Groundhog Day” Super Bowl ad from Highdive starring Bill Murray that revisited the classic film and earned the top spot on USA Today’s Admeter; Procter & Gamble’s “The Look” from Saturday Morning that illustrated the unconscious bias faced by Black men in their everyday lives; Apple’s gorgeous “Bounce” ad from TBWA/Media Arts Lab for Air Pods and Amazon’s Big Game spot “Before Alexa” from Droga5, which imagined how the world got on in olden times without the voice assistant.
The “Back-to-School Essentials” commercial was created out of Sandy Hook Promise’s longtime agency BBDO New York and directed by Smuggler’s Henry-Alex Rubin, who also helmed other notable spots for the client, including the startling 2016 “Evan” ad, featuring a love story with a grim twist.
This year’s award marks the fourth Outstanding Emmy win for BBDO New York. The agency earned its first honor in 1997 for HBO’s “Chimps," followed by the 2006 nod for Fedex “Stick" and then P&G's "The Talk," which nabbed the honor in 2018. It’s also the sixth trophy for BBDO Worldwide CCO David Lubars, who had also earned the Emmy twice while at Fallon, Minneapolis, for PBS’s “Stay Curious” campaign from 2001 and Citibank’s “Identity Theft” from 2004.
"Back to School Essentials" is the second Sandy Hook Promise ad from the agency to earn an Emmy nomination. Last year, the "Point of View" film also earned a nomination, but the honor ultimately went to Nike's "Dream Crazy."
The back-to-school spot was one of the highest-profile ads created by the agency last year—one of its most notable recent pieces under the leadership of former New York Chief Creative Officer Greg Hahn, who was laid off from BBDO in April and went on to open his own shop, Mischief at No Fixed Address, in partnership with Canadian agency NFA. Bianca Guimaraes, one of the key leaders on the ad, then went on to join Hahn at his agency as executive creative director.
Along with the Outstanding Commercial Emmy, the Academy also awarded the honor for Outstanding Title Design to EPIX show “Godfather of Harlem," besting competition from Apple, Amazon, HBO and Netflix. The titles were created out of Digital Kitchen/Sid Lee and featured a photo-collage-like mix of archival footage and live action. According to Sid Lee USA and Digital Kitchen Chief Creative Officer Cam Levin, inspiration for the titles came from artist Romare Bearden, whose work features compositions of torn images from popular magazines capturing historical moments from the African-American perspective in the '60s.