My favourite campaign of all time: The Gun Store

In a new feature that looks at some of the industry's best-ever work, Matt Scotton of IPG Mediabrands chooses a gun crime campaign that not only achieved societal change but also produced lessons on integrated work

What is the best campaign of all time? It’s quite a question. Being a planner I always gravitate to work with brilliant insight. 

Like the classic Australian Telstra ad ‘Rabbits’ promoting the virtues of the internet and playing to the fear of being left behind, by depicting an average Aussie dad comically fumbling to answer his son’s question: “Who built the great wall of China?”  

Or the wonderful #thisgirlcan by Sports England, an anthem built to overcome the fear of judgement women feel when exercising, with on point copy like: “I jiggle, therefore I am.” 

However the campaign I really love is a piece of work from 2015 – named ‘The Gun Store’. 

The subject of this campaign is gun control in the United States, now more than ever a pertinent issue. As an outsider looking into America, gun control feels like madness.

Thousands die each year, yet we see only debate around the topic and not action. It’s an issue fraught with seemingly unshakable deeply-rooted beliefs and values. It signifies an increasing polarised world, where we seek affirmation in content that agrees with our own world view. In other words, echo chambers.

The premise for the campaign was simple. Set up a gun store,and sell weapons that have been used to kill people, like the guns used to kill innocent people at Sandy Hook, to first time buyers. In the process of selling these guns, reveal the story of the individual gun. The result? Bringing the issue and gravity of the weapon and its possible negative outcomes into the hands of the very people seeking to arm themselves.

Inevitably the new gun buyers thought twice about how safe gun ownership was, once the horror of real situations where people had died were brought into direct view. It was a powerful film that was watched, spread on social media (at the time of writing, some 5,049,370 views on YouTube) and discussed at great length across the country and beyond.

However the real genius of the campaign reveals itself when you dig deeper into the construct. Every detail of the experience was meticulously thought through.

The store itself was a physical experience, showcasing hundreds of guns, each with a tag detailing the story of how it was used to take a life. Target practice posters featured in the store, showing the history of accidents at shooting ranges, and even became billboard signage.

Grey New York tackled the gun crime problem head-on

Ammunition boxes mapped out the history of bullets with unintentional deaths, and this was lated used as a direct mailer. Hidden cameras caught the genuine reactions of gun buyers in the store when they realised the history and scale of the problem, a problem they had until that point been willing to become part of. This was  turned into a powerful piece of content with public relations being central in the planning. 

In short ‘The Gun Store’ was a brilliant piece of integrated work. Hats off to the talented people at Grey New York.

Scotton of IPG Mediabrands

For too often concepts get sold, filming begins and ads are created without a true centre of gravity or authenticity. This campaign was a case study of how meticulous planning upfront can produce better designed assets with amplification built in from the get-go.  This only happens when assets, content and connections are planned together from conception, not as an afterthought.

‘The Gun Store’ was not only a unique idea that challenged deeply engrained values in America, it was also a timely piece of work for our industry. It is a lesson in how to plan a groundbreaking idea that will go on to create real cultural impact. For that reason, it has to be my favourite campaign of all time. 

Matt Scotton is Asia-Pacific chief strategy officer at IPG Mediabrands


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