WWTT? Back-to-School Supplies Have a New Purpose in PSA

Kids around the U.S. went back to school just a couple of weeks ago, trading in summer vacations for backpacks and notebooks. And with the start of school of course comes with back-to-school shopping, picking out the essentials needed, while also trying to select items that show fellow students your personality. It’s supposed to be fun, and it can be … but this year, the idea of back-to-school essentials has been turned on its head in a new PSA to make a point about school shootings and gun violence.

The national nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) was created by several family members whose loved ones were killed on Dec. 14, 2012 during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The nonprofit’s mission, according to the organization is ” to prevent gun violence and other forms of violence and victimization BEFORE they can happen by creating a culture of engaged youth and adults committed to identifying, intervening, and getting help for individuals who might be at risk of hurting themselves or others.”

The nonprofit launched a new PSA on Sept. 18, titled “Back-to-School Essentials,” and as of 3:30 pm EST on Sept. 19 the video has more than 1.5 million views on YouTube. The tweet sharing the video, in full, has 11 million views, 172,000 likes, and 111,000 comments. The comments run the gamut of positive to negative, but it’s without a doubt that the campaign has people talking.

Below is the video, but I’m also going to share the content warning that SHP has included with both the YouTube and tweeted video: “This PSA contains graphic content related to school shootings & may be upsetting to some viewers. If you feel this subject matter may be difficult for you, you may choose not to watch.”

The video, which starts out as light-hearted and relatable to anyone who’s been a student, evolves into a nightmare that has been a reality for some school kids. While many students in the U.S. may not have experienced a full-fledged school shooter situation, these students do participate in active shooter drills and bomb threat drills.

On a personal note, I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened, and it was an event that changed schools in the U.S., possibly forever. I went from the seemingly normal life of a student who sometimes witnessed a school fight in the hallway to having to evacuate the building multiple times a month due to bomb threats or other drills. Thankfully nothing serious ever happened to my school, but school itself was definitely changed for me.

But back to the campaign: It was created by SHP and BBDO New York. According to the nonprofit, which also created the award-winning PSAs “Evan” and the Emmy-nominated “Point of View,” this campaign is its largest to date. SHP secured more than $2 million in donated media placements, and the campaign will include digital, OOH, print, and radio.

The campaign also supports SHP’s downloadable brochure, “Know the Signs,” highlighting the warning signs of a potential school shooting, and helping students and adults recognize them.

There were 22 school shootings in the 2018-2019 school year in the U.S. … it would be great to see that number drop, especially if due to the actions supported by SHP’s Know the Signs programs. But this becomes a bigger issue beyond school shootings and shifts into gun control, which is a major hotbed topic in the U.S.

The question is, will this PSA campaign rise above those debating gun control vs. 2nd Amendment rights, and help kids stay safe in schools? That’s a really tough question to ask. But I hope it helps move the needle toward making schools safer for kids, teachers, staff, and parents.

Marketers, tell me what you think about this campaign in the comments below!