In the US, buying a gun is as easy as buying a toy. While toys have to pass some strict safety regulations before reaching a kid’s grasp, a $50 license is just enough to make someone the “proud” owner of a firearm. Whether we like it or not, the States have played host to some of the most devastating mass shootings of our time, in which hundreds of people are killed and thousands are wounded.

Anyone can be a victim, children and adults becoming just as likely to be targets. But the bloodiest mass shooting in a US school took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. In the five years following the tragedy, the number of victims due to gun violence continues to grow. Just recently, Las Vegas faced the deadliest mass shooting in US history, in which 58 people lost their lives and 489 were injured, confirming once again that America is still struggling with this social epidemic.

Following the school incident, in which 20 children were killed, the victims’ families formed the non-profit organization Sandy Hook Promise (SHP), whose sole purpose is to prevent gun violence. The NGO developed the “Know the Signs” program, through which it aims to teach adults and young people to recognize the warning signs of a person who is planning to hurt themselves or others in an act of violence.

To commemorate the tragic event, SHP has joined forces with BBDO New York and released a powerful video that somehow tricks the human mind into only highlighting how one can ignore the obvious signs of a troubled person who might turn into a firearms offender. The PSA forms the subject of our weekly #ThrowBrandThursday column and follows the story of “Evan,” a teenager who is constantly bored in school, waiting for summer break.

During the first 90 seconds of the video, all of our attention is captured by Evan and his romantic experience with a girl he doesn’t know yet. They only communicate through words etched on a table in the library. When they finally meet, it looks like there is a spark between them. Simultaneously, a dark scene takes place in the background, but it doesn’t capture the viewers’ attention because the two adolescents’ love story is fascinating.

“When you don’t know what to look for or can’t recognize what you are seeing, it can be easy to miss warning signs or dismiss them as unimportant. That can lead to tragic consequences, including someone hurting themselves or others,” said SHP’s Co-Founder, Nicole Hockley.

Through “Evan,” the organization proves that some actions can be prevented when one knows where to look for warning signs. Greg Hahn, CCO at the New York-based agency, claimed that the video was created to “show how different your perspective can be when you’re aware of the signs. […] We’ve been fortunate to work with the inspiring people at Sandy Hook Promise to help parents, students, and teachers better identify these signs.”

The award-winning campaign created a real buzz throughout online media: it caught the attention of international press and, less than five days after its launch, the video had become viral, with 2.8 million views on YouTube and almost 2 million on Facebook.

The two-and-a-half-minute film unfolds two captivating stories, with actions that happen at the same time. How easy was it for you to spot the mysterious one? Let us know in the comments:


Client: Sandy Hook Promise

Agency: BBDO New York