Inside BBDO’s ‘Evan’ Ad, and the Unusual Editing Process That Made It Such a Smash Hit

How to generate surprise when you already know what's coming

CANNES, France—BBDO New York pulled off an incredible feat with its work for Sandy Hook Promise released last December. It tricked millions of viewers into believing they were watching a charming teenage love story unfold, when in fact a second storyline had a much darker tale to tell.

The care and precision that went into crafting the “Evan” spot, which was directed by Henry-Alex Rubin, was quite remarkable.

“We needed the scenes in the background to be enough that viewers didn’t see it the first time around, but simultaneously they couldn’t be so hidden that when we revealed them to viewers, they thought they never would have seen that in the first place. It was definitely a tightrope,” agency creative director Peter Alsante tells Adweek in the video above, which goes into great detail about the Cannes Lions contender.

One of the most interesting challenges came when the team sat down to edit the film. The creatives working on the spot knew exactly what they were looking at, so they couldn’t be objective about whether the second narrative was too hidden—or not hidden enough. So, they counted on fresh eyes at every step.

Each time they made any major changes in the edit, they brought in an entirely new group of people, who knew nothing about the story and had not yet seen the film, to act as a de facto focus group.

Hear more about the making of “Evan” spot above, and see the full film below.