A billboard advertising a line of bulletproof vests for young boys has appeared near the Florida capital in Tallahassee. Chilling, controversial and undeniably eye-catching, the ad is part of the "Vest or Vote" campaign mounted by The Dream Defenders.
The Florida-based social justice organization is rallying residents to vote in Florida’s midterm election Nov. 4. According to a report on Jacksonville’s CBS 47 Action News, the group hopes to elect candidates who will repeal the state's controversial stand-your-ground law.
According to Bush Renz, the Miami-based advertising agency behind the campaign, the billboard was modeled after youth clothing ads like those for H&M or Gap. Should curious commuters visit the featured website, it initially appears to be an online retailer selling the child-sized, bulletproof "Dream Vest." Ads for the vest will also appear on Twitter and Facebook.
After waiting a few seconds, or by clicking anywhere on the page, visitors are redirected to a brief but striking public service announcement. The video features a woman bundling up her son in the bulletproof vest the same way many mothers adjust their children’s coats and hats. The PSA ends with the audio from several news reports covering the deaths of Oscar Grant III in Oakland, Calif.; Michael Brown in the continuing case of Ferguson, Mo.; and Florida’s own Trayvon Martin.
"In November, Florida’s voters will be faced with the question first posed by Malcolm X, ‘the ballot or the bullet,’" Ciara Taylor, political director for Dream Defenders, said in a statement. "That dichotomy is what this election is ultimately about."
The "Vest or Vote" campaign highlights that dichotomy in a similar fashion. And according to Bush Renz, it's intended to spark conversation about young voters’ ability to "contest fear and insecurity in communities of color."