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School shooting victims give a somber new meaning to Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’

The latest PSA from Sandy Hook Promise continues the organization’s emotional reminders that this issue is not going away.

School shooting victims give a somber new meaning to Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’
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Katy Perry scored a no. 1 hit with the song “Teenage Dream” back in 2010, but this week the song is being used as a somber reminder. Victims of school shootings cover the hit in a new PSA from the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise. Instead of dancing, going to the beach, and having teenage romances, they remind everyone that their lives were forever changed by a bullet.

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Hannah Dysinger was shot in the ribcage by the bullet that killed her best friend in the Marshall County High School shooting. Chase Yarborough was shot six times in the Santa Fe High School shooting, and still has four bullets in his body. Alex Dworet was shot in the neck in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, while his brother Nick was killed.

Created by agency BBDO New York and director Henry-Alex Rubin, the PSA continues Sandy Hook Promise’s long-running message of knowing the signs to recognize problematic behavior, mental health issues, and more that could lead a young person to commit violence. The organization points to the record-breaking gun violence over the past year as a warning for the current back-to-school season.

This is the latest in a long line of emotional, and sometimes jarring, PSAs from Sandy Hook Promise. In 2019, it was a dark take on the usually cheery back-to-school gear commercial. To mark the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the group’s ad focused on how tomorrow’s news can be reshaped by today’s actions and challenged the idea that gun violence is unavoidable. Perhaps the standard-bearer for both Sandy Hook Promise and this issue is the group’s award-winning 2016 PSA “Evan,” which managed to illustrate the whole idea and challenge of recognizing the signs by telling a deceptive high school love story.

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Crafting a surprising message that is going to emotionally resonate with a broad audience, particularly around a divisive issue, is a tough annual assignment. As gun violence continues to proliferate, despite years and years of tragedy, Sandy Hook’s PSA this year appears to run out of patience. It says enough with the clever story-telling, and forces us to confront victims directly, look them in the eyes, and somehow explain why there will still need to be another PSA next year.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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