A School Shooting Is Shown From the Last Perspective You’d Expect in New Sandy Hook PSA

BBDO again tells a story of danger brewing in plain sight

An election for class president sets the backdrop of Sandy Hook Promise's newest PSA about the warning signs of school shootings.
Sandy Hook Promise

In its mission to raise awareness of the warning signs of school shootings, Sandy Hook Promise, formed in the heartbreaking aftermath of 2012’s mass murder of children in Newtown, Conn., has created some of the most stirring PSAs in recent memory.

Now the organization and pro-bono creative partner BBDO New York are back with an ad that follows up the highly praised 2016 spot “Evan” and last year’s “Tomorrow’s News,” which portrayed media coverage of a school shooting that hadn’t yet happened. Together, those two netted more than 3 billion impressions and 200 industry awards, including 13 Cannes Lions.

The new PSA, “Point of View,” is reminiscent of “Evan,” but this time it relies on a first-person view. While that aspect might not occur to the viewer at first, it soon becomes apparent that the ad is less about what’s happening at the school than about what’s happening to one person.

The spot is speckled with hints at the backstory, ranging from an assault rifle decoration in a locker and vandalized posters to a social media post about imminent violence.

Directed by Rupert Sanders, “Point of View” is another compelling and ominous narrative, though it’s also more problematic than previous installments from Sandy Hook Promise.

Both the plot and the concept—putting the viewer in the shoes of a school shooter—will likely leave some viewers feeling uncomfortable about the ad’s message. In “Evan,” the shooter was hiding in plain sight, and the story effectively reminds us all that shootings could be avoided if we’re more aware of warning signs.

This time around, you’re seeing the world through the eyes of the shooter and watching as he’s ignored or bullied by other students. Some will applaud the ad’s empathy and its focus on the patterns of behavior that can turn students from unstable to violent. But others will see it as putting too much of an onus on the potential victims.

By humanizing the killer in the most direct way yet, “Point of View” is likely to fuel the kinds of debates already happening online about outcasts, bullying and how positivity could prevent disaster. As one school shooting survivor in Parkland, Fla., said on Twitter: “I’m tired of people blaming me because I didn’t give the shooter a hug.”

That’s certainly not the angle of this Sandy Hook Promise spot, though the nonprofit has also been vocal about the role that social isolation plays in driving students toward depression, self-harm or school violence. Sandy Hook Promise’s “Know the Signs” program includes four key areas: “Start with Hello,” “Say Something,” “Signs of Suicide,” and “Safety Assessment and Intervention” (most of which come into play over the course of the video).

The new PSA ends with the shooter yelling “Look at me!” as he begins his attack, but even the video acknowledges his classmates are aware of him—and just don’t like what they see. So is it a lesson about being observant? Or about being kind to those being socially exiled? And on whom should all that responsibility fall? As with many of the issues around school violence, these are hard questions with few clear answers.

CREDITS:

Agency: BBDO New York

Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
Chief Creative Officer, New York: Greg Hahn
Senior Creative Director: Peter Alsante
Creative Director: Bianca Guimaraes
Associate Creative Director/Copywriter: Jim Connolly
Associate Creative Director/Art Director: Marcus Johnston,
Director of Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Executive Producer: Alex Gianni
Music Producer: Julia Millison
Account Director: Lindsey Cash
Account Manager: Elizabeth Jacobs
Planning Director: Ben Bass
Planner: Michael Schonfeld
Group Planning Director: Yin Chung
Director of Digital Analytics and Measurement Lead, Marketing Science: Chris Daniele

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