At first glance, Sandy Hook Promise’s PSA “Evan” by BBDO tells the saccharine sweet story of a budding high school romance between two students in the lead up to summer. It focuses on Evan who in an effort to “while away the time” before the summer holidays, scrawls a message on a desk in the library. To his surprise, when he returns his message has been answered. The spot pans out as the two write back and forth completely unaware of each other’s identity, in a kind of modern day Pyramus and Thisbe tale. It’s pretty heartwarming.

Just before our classic boy-meets-girl story is all wrapped up, disaster strikes. When our two star-crossed lovers are united at last, tragedy strikes in the form of a masked gunman. Children scream and scatter in complete unbridled chaos and then all fades to black. So cruel a fate that would bring these two together right before they are ripped unceremoniously apart. How could this have happened? How could we have not seen this coming?

That’s the point. How could each link in the tragic chain of events that have been built, without someone — anyone — noticing? A second watch reveals something far more sinister. When the film is played back we see the real story hidden in the background the whole time.

After the big shooting moment, “Evan” takes us back to the start, zeroing in on particularly suspect behaviors which were hiding in plain sight the whole time. We see the shooter displaying an interest in violent behavior and guns, being bullied, and boasting about easy access to firearms.

In a startling statistic, 80% of school shooters had told someone of their violent intentions prior to committing them, yet no one had intervened.

According to Sandy Hook Promise, often those at risk to themselves and others show signs and signals before an act of violence takes place. These can be easy to miss when you don’t know what to look for and sometimes, as “Evan” proves, to tragic consequences.

Luckily “Evan” can be rewound and reexamined. We can go back to the start and the damage can be undone. The second time around we can spot the warning signs and stop the problem before it’s too late.

Founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Sandy Hook Promise is a non-profit organization that provides research-based training for schools and communities. In just under two years, they’ve trained 1.5 million students, teachers, school officials, and parents in all 50 states in at least one of the programs.

The film has quickly gone viral, racking up over 5 million views in just over a week. It’s clever, engaging, and hopefully, wakes people up to the symptoms of a serious problem. If “Evan” helps even just a handful of kids, teachers, and parents, then Sandy Hook Promise will have achieved what it set out to do. Gun violence is preventable. Let’s stop it before it starts.


Campaign: Evan

Brand: Sandy Hook Promise

Agency: BBDO