Inspired by the rising wave of student activism around gun reform, MullenLowe, in partnership with The One Club for Creativity, created a platform to ensure the voices of this new generation are heard by the right people who can leverage them.
Fight Gunfire With Fire (FGWF) launched last week as a network to connect student activists with professionals in the advertising world. And this time, instead of the professionals controlling the project, the reins will be handed over to the students, as they are the ones most affected by gun violence.
In a brief posted to The Young Ones site, FGWF calls on students to submit their own creative campaign proposals aimed at ending gun violence. The network’s Creative Fire Council, which pulls from a talent pool beyond IPG-owned MullenLowe and The One Club, will then choose the best ideas to develop.
Those in the Creative Fire Council include MullenLowe U.S. CCO Mark Wenneker; The One Club CEO Kevin Swanepoel; Oscar-winning film editor and Exile partner Kirk Baxter; 72andSunny executive creative director Keith Cartwright; Bob Industries’ Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, film directors; Team 26 founder and Pullman & Comley partner Monte Frank; Novelist and creative director Kathy Hepinstall Parks; Wieden + Kennedy CCO Susan Hoffman; Burger King global CMO Fernando Machado and Fire Safety in Fun creative director Ida Woldemichael.
The group explains their positioning further in the chilling video below, which opens with 9-1-1 calls recorded from school shootings. The video describes FGWF as a “creative force” that is relentless, resourceful, uncompromising, fast, patient, collaborative, etc., and one that “will never stop stopping gun violence.”
“FGWF was launched to target college and high school students since we saw such enthusiastic interest from them to get involved in light of the recent tragedies seen in schools around the country, but may expand at some point,” Swanepoel told Adweek. “This isn’t about being a restrictive competition, it’s about finding real, actionable ideas that will help solve the epidemic of gun violence. If we can help save a life, that is what’s most important.”
Swanepoel said FGWF will reach out to students to alert them of this initiative through The One Club’s Young Ones Student programs and Creative Boot Camps that encompasses ad, design and portfolio schools around the world. FGWF’s specific target will be college and high school students as they have been the ones vigorously leading efforts against gun violence through coalitions like March For Our Lives, which has gained participation from rising activists including the Parkland, Fla., school shooting survivors.
“The work of these students has inspired us all to use our talents and skills to make a real difference in our communities,” Machado said in a statement. “I look forward to playing a role in helping fuel that fire which has proved to be a powerful voice today.”
FGWF says it will not put a cap on how many campaigns it will choose to bring to life. However, it does suggest students create lower-budget, grassroots ideas that can realistically be implemented.
All entries, to be submitted online, will be reviewed in the fall with the students deemed to have the best ideas then introduced to sponsors, including agencies, production houses, brands and nonprofits, that will develop their ideas. There is no fee to enter the competition.
“We encourage students to send us as many [ideas] as they have,” Swanepoel said. “Since there is no fee for entry, there’s no financial barrier to having strong participation.”
MullenLowe’s Wenneker added: “We aren’t reaching out to these students, schools and agency interns to get student work. We are reaching out to them because they have woken up. They know how the media acts, they are the adults in the room now.”
According to FGWF, this is not a network that was designed to be politically polarizing. The brief tasks students with brainstorming ideas that address a number of issues from legislative matters that consider placing bans on gun sales to convicted stalkers to racial profiling to domestic violence.
“This is not about the right to bear arms,” Wenneker told Adweek. “It’s about the right to send our kids to school. So they can grow up to be great, smart, humans. It’s a little tough to subtract when there’s a rifle aiming at you.”
Following the Parkland school shooting in February, the issue of gun violence was pushed more prominently into the national spotlight. Since, advertisers have created several campaigns to address the issue—including a fake website that sells bulletproof vests for children and one inspired by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—but none have arguably leaned as heavily on a student perspective than this recent effort.