What would you think as a parent if you came across a website selling bulletproof vests—some stamped with smiley faces and rainbows—for school-aged children? Would you find it absurd, or would you consider buying the armor for your kid?
A group of agency employees created a fictitious site, Bulletproofjunior.com, that sells (or rather wants people to think it sells) bulletproof vests in toddler, preteen and teen sizes. The employees told Adweek that while the apparel is fake, the possibility of products like it eventually reaching consumers is real.
“We thought: ‘What if we fooled people into thinking this is real?’ … and then [when they realize it’s not, we hope] people will think: ‘Could this become reality?'” explained Harley Garner, an associate creative strategist at Digitas who helped spearhead the campaign.
Garner, answering his own question, said he believes it could, as some politicians “are really suggesting a very scary reality” for the future of schools in America. In the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that left 17 dead, some, including President Donald Trump, have suggested that districts arm their teachers to defend against assailants. Others—like those behind Bulletproof Junior—have denounced the idea, saying it could lead to a host of new problems, including accidental discharges. This concern mounted just a week ago, when a teacher in Northern California mistakenly fired his gun in the classroom, injuring three students.
Garner said he and the others behind Bulletproof Junior hope their campaign will serve as a nonpartisan tool to shed light on the larger issue at hand: Children should never have to fear going to school.
Upon clicking on the website, users are met with a grave warning: “You never know where the next school shooting might be. Is your child prepared?” Then, if they choose, they can browse the armor.
At first glance, people might think the prices are a bit steep—$1,214.12 for a toddler vest, $1,021.13 for the preteen size and $1,024.14 for the teen.
Garner said those prices actually represent the dates of real school shootings and coincide with their respective age groups: The toddler price is Dec. 14, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting that left 26 dead, including 20 students. The preteen price represents Oct. 21, 2013, the day of the Sparks Middle School shooting in Nevada that cost two people their lives including the perpetrator. And finally, the teen price represents Oct. 24, 2014, the day of the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting in Washington that left five dead including the shooter.
While these references are subtle, what is clear is that no one will actually receive a child-size bulletproof vest. Upon going to purchase one, users are met with this statement:
“Kids don’t need bulletproof vests. They need voters demanding change.
We did not make this site to offend anyone, but instead, we wanted to show how insane it is that bulletproof vests for kids even seems believable, and that in itself is a catastrophic problem.
Now, we implore you to take REAL action. Enter your zip code below to tweet at your senators.
Enough Is Enough.”
Those who wish to continue can then use the website’s function to enter their zip code, find their local senator and send them a tweet demanding they take action on gun control.
Alongside Garner, the campaign is being led by a network of colleagues and friends in the agency world: Davina Hamilton, senior account executive at Digitas; Chris Puma, junior copywriter at Huge N.Y.; Jason Murray, art director at Y&R N.Y.; Caleb Couturie, copywriting intern at 180 L.A.; Yugendu Vyas, art direction intern at 180 L.A. and Rudy Perez, developer at MullenLowe L.A.
Garner said they originally got together having been inspired by the group of Parkland students who survived the Feb. 14 shooting that have since become activists for change, initiating their own campaign for stricter gun laws dubbed #NeverAgain. On Saturday, those students and thousands others are set to descend on Washington D.C. for the March for Our Lives protest.