Best of 2019: This unexpected back-to-school ad highlights the gear kids need to survive the new year

Sandy Hook Promise is back with another blunt and harrowing PSA

Published On
Sep 18, 2019

Editor's Pick

On Creativity through New Year’s, we’ll be revisiting some of the brand ideas and campaigns that made 2019—and the last decade. Check back on on January 1 for the full lists.

Best of 2019

BBDO New York’s 2019 entry to its lineup of ads for gun safety charity Sandy Hook Promise was one of the finest. The sobering tale about the potential dangers kids in the U.S. face today was skillfully disguised as a typical saccharine back-to-school promo—until things unexpectedly take a dark turn. The ad’s success could be attributed to its powerful concept along with the exacting attention that went into every aspect of the craft, from the writing to the directing to the music.  

Original Story

Back-to-school season is a stressful time for students and parents alike. There are new clothes to buy, school supplies to prepare and plenty to learn about, like math and spelling and the locations of the nearest exits.

A harrowing new spot for Sandy Hook Promise, the gun violence prevention group formed after the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, starts off like a traditional back-to-school ad, with kids showing off their new gear, like a backpack and folders. But the reality quickly turns dark. New sneakers make for a quick escape, and fashionable socks double as a tourniquet.

The PSA lays bare the regularity—and creeping banality—of school shootings. There have been more than 22 this year, according to Sandy Hook Promise, and many kids receive training at school in the form of shooter drills. Teachers and students learn not only how to run away but how to attack with scissors or sharp pencils if cornered. A Michigan high school is being built with curved hallways and hiding places for students in the event of a shooting.

The spot from BBDO New York is directed by Henry Alex Rubin via Smuggler. It is running in print, digital, radio and out-of-home placements, and $2 million in media has been donated by brands including Omnicom Media Group, CNN, IFC, AMC, YouTube, Teads, PopSugar, Conde Nast, SnapChat, Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Fortune, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Intersection and Outdoor Media.

Previous spots in the campaign, also directed by Rubin, have also been blunt about the danger schoolchildren face. “Evan” hid warning signs in otherwise innocuous scenes, and “Tomorrow’s News” broadcast the aftermath of a shooting occurring the next day.


Sep 18, 2019
Client :
Sandy Hook Promise
Agency :
BBDO-New York
Production Company :
Chief Creative Officer Worldwide :
David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer New York :
Greg Hahn
SVP Senior Creative Director :
Peter Alsante
VP Creative Director :
Bianca Guimaraes
Associate Creative Director / Copywriter :
Jim Connolly
Associate Creative Director / Copywriter :
Gary Toit
Associate Creative Director / Art Director :
Lance Vining
Director of Integrated Production :
David Rolfe
VP Group Executive Producer :
Alex Gianni
Associate Producer :
Molly Ross
Music Producer :
Julia Millison
Business Manager :
Grace Kelly
SVP Senior Director :
Lindsey Cash
Account Manager :
Elizabeth Jacobs
Account Executive :
Melissa Blache
Planning Director :
Ben Bass
Brand Strategist :
Michael Schonfeld
VP Director of Data :
Chris Daniele
Production Company :
Executive Producer :
Drew Santarsiero
Director :
Henry Alex Rubin
Co-Founder :
Patrick Milling -Smith
Co-Founder :
Brian Carmody
Line Producer :
Leah Allina
Director of Photography :
Autumn Durald Arkapaw
Editorial Company :
Managing Director :
Corina Dennison
Senior Producer :
Laura Molinaro
Editor :
Jason Macdonald
Assistant Editor :
Renn Cheale
Telecine Company :
Company 3
Telecine Artist :
Tim Masick
Producer :
Alexandra Lubrano
Conform/VFX/Finish Company :
Conform Artist :
Ed Skupeen
Flame Assist :
Mark Reyes
Graphic Design Company :
Producer :
Laura Molinaro
David Gerber
Music Company :
JSM Music
Joel Simon
Executive Producer :
Jeff Fiorello
Composer :
Jason Krebs
Composer :
Joel Simon
Producer :
Norm Felker
Producer :
Andrew Manning
Sound Designer :
Nathan Kil
Mix & Record Company :
Heard City
Engineer :
Jeremy Siegel
Engineer :
Keith Reynaud
Engineer :
Evan Mangiamele
Engineer :
Elizabeth McClanahan
Managing Partner :
Gloria Pitagosky
Executive Producer :
Jackie James
Executive Producer :
Sasha Awn
Producer :
Andi Lewis
Sound Designer :
Evan Mangiamele
Sound Designer :
Jeremy Siegel
Sound Designer :
Keith Reynaud
Assistant Audio Engineer :
Tom Morris
Assistant Audio Engineer :
Seth Brogdon
Assistant Audio Engineer :
Evan Anderson
Assistant Audio Engineer :
Ronnie Stapleton
Casting Company :
Doreen Frumkin Casting
VO Talent :
Lawton Paseka
Media Agency :
PHD Media
Client Business Lead :
Bob Estrada
Associate Strategy Director :
Nichole Verost
Digital Performance Director :
Gretchen Smith
Strategy Supervisor :
Alison Horowitz
Associate Director Social Media :
Caren Axelrod
President Video Investment :
Harry Keeshan
Managing Director Integrated Investment :
Seth Glosman
Director Video Investment :
Paul Salman
Associate Director Published Media :
Amy Turner
Supervisor Published Media :
Amanda Knoll
US Director Local Investment :
Grace Collins
Group Director Local Investment :
Jeanne Boland

Need a credit fix? Contact the Creativity Editors

Project Type