Ogilvy Made Bulletproof Ads to Protest Lax Gun Laws, and Put One in Front of the White House

Another plea that all sales require background checks

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As President Trump prepares to address the annual NRA convention in Atlanta this week, Americans and their representatives in Congress stand at an impasse on gun control.

In recent years, ad agencies have created pro-bono campaigns designed to raise public awareness and garner support for initiatives to help reduce gun violence, from Grey New York’s “Guns With History” to BBDO’s “Evan,” which promoted advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise.

Each related campaign had its own unique hook, and the latest from Ogilvy & Mather Chicago is no exception. This execution for Americans for Responsible Solutions works from a simple premise—a bulletproof poster.

ARS is a nonprofit founded by former House representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, in the wake of 2012’s Sandy Hook shooting. (Giffords herself was shot, along with 18 others, during a 2011 meeting with constituents.)

In this case, the group’s message is relatively straightforward: Every gun sale should require strict background checks, whether it happens in a store, at a gun show or as a private transaction between individuals. Current federal law requires such checks only when the firearm in question is purchased from a licensed dealer, and the group’s press release cites “glaring loopholes in our laws that let dangerous people obtain guns” as one reason the U.S. has higher levels of gun violence than most other advanced democracies.

But will this particular effort change the minds of any voters, much less their representatives in Congress?

“While it’s true that many American’s are entrenched on opposite sides of this issue, there’s one thing that the vast majority of Americans agree on: They don’t want guns in the wrong hands,” said Ogilvy Chicago chief creative officer Joe Sciarrotta, who led this project. “With so much polarizing rhetoric around the gun-violence epidemic, we wanted to present the message in a straightforward yet surprising way. From New York to D.C. to Chicago, these bulletproof posters got people talking about current lax gun laws, and we believe that’s a step in the right direction.”

“Background checks save lives, period,” added ARS executive director Peter Ambler. “If we want to make our communities safer from gun violence, background checks are a tested solution.”

Repeated surveys conducted by a variety or organizations do indeed show that a vast majority of Americans across the ideological spectrum support stronger background checks for all gun buyers. As recently as 1999, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre told Congress, “We think it’s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone.”

Despite what might seem like bipartisan agreement on background checks, though, Americans should not expect new regulations on the federal level at a time when one party with majorities in all three branches of government has yet to demonstrate its ability to move a bill through Congress.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.