Disarm: why marketing’s biggest challenge is to persuade America to give up its guns

Andrew Boulton is a copywriter with a decade of scribbling experience at places like Egg the online bank, some top agencies in the Midlands and once for a man who carved dolphins out of cheese.

He was nominated for the Professional Publishers Association Award for Business Media Columnist of the Year despite having little or no grasp of the semi colon. He has decent hair but a disappointing beard. You can follow him on Twitter @Boultini.

Like everyone else who heard the news of yesterday’s Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, I am shocked, horrified and saddened. I’m quite sure that the hearts of every one in this country go out to the parents and the community.

And yet, if you were to gauge the mood last night on Twitter, another emotion appears to be dominating people’s thoughts, even more so than the grief and sympathy. Anger.

I know that I could never understand the mentality of someone who would commit such an atrocity, but I’d like to think I could empathise with the policies and attitudes of the Government of a democratic nation. In this case, I am at a loss.

It is not our place to judge or harangue America over the way it governs itself. But it is very much our right to evaluate and criticise a political stance that can directly lead to the deaths of 27 innocent people, most of whom were children.

As ever, our response to these incidents (of which this is the latest in an all too long sequence) is simply ‘why?’.

Why does the law of the land permit (some would even say encourage) the ownership of firearms? Why is it so relatively easy to obtain a lethal weapon in a modern, civilised society? Why is a document written over 200 year ago impervious to social evolution even though this particular part of it is at best irrelevant and at worse dangerous.

The unrestrained fury that has swept across the world of social media is born out of this confusion. This appalling incident was committed by a mad man, but it was committed in an environment in which mad men are given the opportunity to destroy lives.

Piers Morgan is not a man I would care to be trapped in a lift with, but I found his incandescence in the face of the dogmatic pro-gun arguments to be incredibly admirable.

Life is not black and white, never less so than in the ‘red, white and blue’, but one thing must, must, must be true, and that is if guns are so readily accessible, occasionally they will find the way into the hands of maniac.

This is not opinion, this is a fact that is carved in the headstones of 13 people from Columbine, 12 people from a cinema in Colorado, 32 people from Virginia Tech. Depressingly I could go on.

Now, surely, must be the time for the fight. For making a powerful, irrefutable case that the United States must accept and implement tighter gun control.

I work in the world of marketing, and I have seen the extraordinary powers of persuasion exercised by the finest minds in the industry.

Marketing elects Presidents. It opens a film to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in a single weekend. It builds empires, it destroys preconceptions, it changes people's minds.

Step forward then the marketers. Build a campaign that cannot be ignored or denied. One that implores people to think more of the broken hearted parents who will be burying their children this week than of a piece of paper from the 18th century that has no place or purpose in the modern world.

The argument is complicated and sensitive, and there are those who will never be persuaded. But every time one of these tragedies occurs and so many lives are pointlessly lost, the element of doubt creeps deeper and deeper into the American psyche.

The right words, the right message at the right time can build the kind of spirit and momentum that can carry the United States into a safer, brighter future.

I understand that some people will feel that is not my right to air my views about another country’s culture and society. I accept that.

I also understand that there are gun owners in the USA who are responsible and careful, and they would legitimately feel aggrieved if they were punished because of the actions of a handful of psychopaths. I accept that too.

My only defence is that we know what the current climate will bring. If no action is taken, this will happen again. Doing nothing has not worked, so doing something is the only option left, even it upsets some people.

I believe the message of tighter gun control is one, today more than ever, that can be sold to the American people. I know I’d buy it.


Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs