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.