Over the past two months, the Covid-19 outbreak has set off massive sales spikes for products like bidets amid toilet paper shortages, and adoption has surged for furry companions amid social isolation. These needs have cropped up as natural outcomes of getting through life during a pandemic.
A far more shocking purchasing bump? The coronavirus crisis also triggered a rise in firearm and ammunition sales. In fact, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the number of gun background checks initiated in February and March 2020 totaled over 6.5 million, compared to about 4.7 million in the same period last year. The week of March 16-22 alone saw more than 1.2 million gun background check requests, the most in a single week since NICS began in 1998.
These skyrocketing gun sales led the National Rifle Association to successfully lobby the federal government to deem gun retailers, shooting ranges and weapon manufacturers as essential services.
Unsettled by these statistics, the founders of gun reform activism organization Change the Ref, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, sought to create a campaign that tackled two pandemics in one: the spread of Covid-19 and the pervasiveness of mass shootings in the United States. As the parents of Joaquin Oliver, one of the 17 victims of the Parkland, Fla. high school massacre, they wanted people to remember that the best antiviral weapon to protect themselves and their families is one that relies on suds, not bullets: soap.
Conceptualized with Alma, a multicultural Miami-based advertising agency that, according to its executive creative director Monica Marulanda, specializes in “telling stories that move the soul,” the campaign came about shortly after news organizations began reporting surges in firearm and ammunition sales.
Alma, which has worked with Change the Ref since August 2018, hopped on the phone with Manuel Oliver—”he’s our compass,” Marulanda said—and came up with gun-shaped soaps as a simple but effective way to spread awareness about why hand-washing and other hygienic practices should go up, while gun violence should go down.
“Even though most of us are in isolation,” Marulanda said, “we still shouldn’t distance ourselves from this problem.” Thus, the soaps are packaged with a straightforward message: “The more this disappears, the safer our lives will be.”
Marulanda said the agency pulled together an ad spotlighting local and national news coverage of its antiviral weapon campaign. Throughout the spot, Oliver and journalists explain the message of the stunt: The more that people use these soaps to protect themselves and their family, the more they’ll realize just how important it is for real guns to vanish as well.
At this time, the soaps are not available for sale, but both Change the Ref and Alma are “working tirelessly” to get through the hurdles posed by Covid-19 to take them to market.
Agency: ALMA DDB
Client: Change the Ref
Luis Miguel Messianu, Creative Chairman/CEO
Alvar Sunol, Co-President/Chief Creative Officer
Michelle Headley, SVP/Productions
Michael Sotelo, VP Digital Content & Experience
Yeyo Marquez, VP, Director of Production
Monica Marulanda, Executive Creative Director
Virgilio Flores, Creative Director
Luis Puerta, Associate Creative Director
Humberto Maldonado, Associate Creative Director
Michelle Robles, Lead Digital Content & Experience Creator
Alberto Calva, Creative Director
Emilia Lora, Art Director
Orlando Velez, Art Director
Jennifer O. Eirea, Senior Producer, Studio
Jose Toledo, Audio Engineer
Pablo Collela, Senior Editor/GFX