This Powerhouse Gun-Safety Appeal Uses AI to Recreate Victims' Voices

Chilling messages target lawmakers

"Hello, I'm Joaquin. I was murdered at school by a shooter with an AR-15 assault rifle."

Today marks the sad anniversary of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver's death during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Though he's been gone for six years, Joaquin and other young victims cut down by gun violence make chilling pleas to lawmakers in "The Shotline," a campaign from Change the Ref.

The advocacy group and MullenLowe harnessed AI to create the messages.

Change the Ref | The Shotline

"As we brainstormed about how we could get Congress to act, we learned that phone calls are still one of the most effective ways to get the attention of our elected officials," MullenLowe ECD Tim Vaccarino tells Muse. "But we also knew the calls would need to be memorable and personal so they wouldn’t be ignored like so many others on this issue. "

With that in mind, "We turned to those whose opinions of gun laws and violence could simply not be matched: the victims of themselves," Vaccarino says. "By leveraging breakthrough developments in AI technology, we would be able to perfectly recreate the voices of these victims. They would be the ones to call and tell their own stories."

MullenLowe and Edisen Tech ran audio and video files of victims through AI programs to generate the campaign. "Each recreated voice required just 6 seconds of reference audio, although we worked with more to ensure the highest quality and authenticity," he says.

After that, "we worked with each of the victim's families to write the phone call scripts, ensuring the stories we told were true and honest to their loved ones. This included their tone of voice and the cadence they would have had in conversation."
"When talking with parents of gun victims about the idea, they reiterated that if just one congressperson’s mind changed on this issue, the entire campaign would be worth the effort," Vaccarino says.

Along with Joaquin (who's parents founded Change the Ref) MullenLowe created "Shotline" calls from:

  • Uziyah Garcia - 10-year-old killed alongside 18 classmates and two teachers in the Uvalde shooting at Robb Elementary School.
  • Ethan Song - 15-year-old killed by a gun left unsecured at a friend's house.
  • Jaycee Webster - 20-year-old shot and killed in his bedroom by a lone gunman.
  • Mike Baughan - killed himself using a gun he was able to purchase in only 15 minutes.
  • Akilah Dasilva - 23-year-old killed by a man with an AR-15 in a Waffle House mass shooting.

Along with the automated calls programmed to flood the offices of elected officials, activists and victims' families will rally today outside the U.S. Capitol.

CTR's past groundbreaking work includes "The Lost Class," a multiple-Clio-Award-winning campaign from 2021. During his acceptance speech, Joaquin's dad Manuel spoke as his son, imploring the creative community to do more in the fight against gun violence.

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