Droga5's New Ad About Guns in the Home Is Perfectly Unsettling

PSA for The Brady Campaign introduces the phrase 'family fire'

Few tragedies are more heartbreaking than children being killed or maimed by playing with a loaded gun that's unsecured in their home. 

It happens every day. Shockingly, it happens eight times a day in America, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In response to the epidemic, the group today released a powerful new campaign, in conjunction with The Ad Council, that addresses the issue—and hopes to solve the problem in part by simply naming it. 

The campaign, crafted by Droga5, introduces the phrase "family fire" to describe these unintentional shootings. The idea is to define the issue—much as the phrases "drunk driving" and "secondhand smoke" defined those issues—and, by crystallizing awareness in this way, hopefully make it easier to combat. 

The centerpiece of the "End Family Fire" campaign is a sobering two-minute spot featuring a father and son discussing the gun in their own home. The writing is sharp, the performances deft and unsettling, and the ending quietly devastating. 

See the PSA here: 

End Family Fire | Gun Safety | Ad Council

Directed by Jim Cummings of Here Be Dragons, the eerie spot seems designed to spook the viewer without veering directly into shock tactics. The ending, in particular, suggests the whole scene was imagined by the father—and that the boy, in fact, may already be dead from playing with the father's gun. 

Various moments throughout the film support this, some more evident on second viewing. The film opens with the child lying face down and motionless, which had seemed innocent at first. Some of the dialogue ("I haven't found them yet, but I'm sure I can," the boy says of the bullets) also clearly suggests the scene is a hallucination. 

The craft reinforces the sense of loss, particularly at the 0:51 mark, when all of the color drains out of the frame as the boy reveals he knows where the gun is hidden. 

Duncan Marshall, founding partner of Droga5, tells Muse that the twist ending was "a way to have the viewer keep thinking about what the outcome was—was it all a real conversation, a remembered conversation or simply a conversation the father is wishing he'd had with his son who's now tragically no longer there?" 

Here's more from our chat with Marshall: 

How did you arrive at the decision to invent a phrase, "family fire," that could help this problem? Was it a mix of research and intuition?
In our initial rounds of in-home research, we realized how difficult it was to have a constructive conversation about gun safety. We also realized that, though there was extensive coverage of gun-control issues, particularly in the context of school shootings, there was limited discussion of the eight kids a day who are unintentionally killed or injured by an unlocked, loaded gun. 

In order to bring the issue to the forefront and facilitate conversation, we realized it needed a name: Family Fire. Inspired by successful public-health campaigns that coined the terms "drunk driving" and "secondhand smoke," we believed that, by naming and defining the issue, we could work to eliminate it.   

Can a single phrase like that can change behavior?
Our ultimate goal is to make Family Fire a household term. We hope that everyone who interacts with our content walks away with a clear understanding of the extreme risks that come with keeping guns in a home with children and of the necessary steps to safely store your gun. 

There are a lot of ways to dramatize this problem, even humor. This spot is much more sobering. Why go in this direction?
The "End Family Fire" campaign is meant to reach all families with children in the home. Our approach is nonpartisan and focused on safety. We hope that families with a gun in the home will reevaluate their home-protection needs and take the necessary steps to be safe and responsible gun owners. We aren't trying to take away guns or be anti-gun but rather encourage the safe storage of guns. 

What was the most challenging thing about producing the spot?
Performance. If the boy and father didn't connect in a credible, loving way, the emotional strength of the piece would have been lost.  

Are you hoping the "twist ending" will make the spot more shareable?
The twist was meant to create a conversation between families with guns in the home, but yes, hopefully more shareable, too. Our launch film observes a conversation between an average father and son in an average home in America. The back-and-forth of questions from the son and answers from the dad begins with a simple, "Dad, do we have a gun?" and from there takes us on a powerful and agonizing journey to an end where the audience cannot be sure whether this was a real conversation or an imagined one between a father and a son who was tragically killed by a gun in the home. We hope this ignites a reaction and, in turn, encourages folks to share the spot and take action. 

The overhead views in the images on the website are interesting. Can you talk about that design and what it's meant to achieve?
We wanted to be able to very simply move through a home, pointing out the dangers and giving advice on safe gun ownership as we went. Drifting slowly upward in one move seemed effortless—you don't want to ask people to jump through hoops when you're giving them pointers on an emotionally delicate subject. 

Check out some of the print work below. 

Client : The Brady Campaign

Campaign Title: End Family Fire Justin
Launch Date : Aug. 8, 2018

Agency : Droga5 NY

Creative Chairman : David Droga 
CEO: Sarah Thompson 
Chief Creative Officer : Neil Heymann 
Chief Creative Officer : Ted Royer 
Creative Partner : Duncan Marshall 
Creative Director : Ash Tavassoli 
Creative Director : Jake Shaw 
Copywriter : Frank Garcia 
Art Director: Giulia Magaldi 
Group Design Director: Rich Greco 
Jr. Designer: Andrew Diemer
Director of Film Production: Jesse Brihn
Producer, Film: Zack Grant 
Producer, Film: Nathan Pardee 
Co-Director of Interactive Production : Tasha Cronin 
Co-Director of Interactive Production : Justin Durazzo 
Senior Producer, Interactive : Andrew Puzzuoli 
Associate Producer, Interactive : Colin Neff
Director of Art Production: Cliff Lewis 
Senior Producer, Print: Alyssa Dolman 
Associate Producer, Art: Elena Baxter 
Senior Business Affairs Manager : Whitney Vose 
Legal: Zachary Werner 
Retoucher: John Clendenen 
Graphics Studio Manager: Virginia Vargas 
Co-Head of Strategy: Colm Murphy 
Strategist: Matt Forster 
Strategist: Midori Swaim 
Communications Strategist : Hillary Fink 
Executive Group Account Director : Agnes Fischer 
Group Account Director: Chris Burgess 
Account Director: Alli Ray
Account Manager: Jake Stopper 
Associate Account Manager: Ashley Diddell 
Project Manager : Rachel Murad
Project Manager : Kaki White 

Client: Brady
Co-President: Kristin Brown 
Vice President, Programs : Kyleanne Hunter 
Assistant Director, Partnerships : Bettina Lanyi 
Consultant: Priscilla Natkins

Production Company ("Justin" Film): Here Be Dragons
Director: Jim Cummings 
DOP: Alex Disenhof 
Executive Producer : David Richards 
Executive Producer : Kamila Propok 
Producer: Natalie Metzger

Production Company (Website Film): Residency Content
Director: Drew Bourdet 
DOP: Dustin Lane 
Executive Producer : Gaetan Rousseau 
Producer: John Morrow

Editorial: Final Cut
Editor: Jim Helton
Assistant Editor : Dan Berk 
Executive Producer : Sarah Roebuck 
Head of Production: Penny Ensley

Post Production: Method Studios
Executive Producer : Angela Lupo 
Senior Producer : Graham Dunglinson 
Production Coordinator : Kate Fitzpatrick 
Flame Artist, VFX Lead: Tom McCullough

Post Production (Website Film): Hero Studios

Color Correct: Company 3
Colorist: Tim Masick 
Senior Producer: Kevin Breheny

Music: Future Perfect
Composer / Sound Designer : Victor Magro 
Music Producer: Maxwell Gosling

Audio: Heard City
Mixer: Evan Mangiamele 
Executive Producer: Sasha Awn

Audio (Website Film): duotone audio post
Sound Designer / Mixer : Andy Green 
Executive Producer: Greg Tiefenbrun

Interactive Production Company: Superhero Cheesecake
Creative Director : Peter Coolen 
Director of Technology : Rian Verhagen 
Executive Producer: Niels Van Esch

Photographer: Paul McGeiver

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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