by MarkLives (@marklives) We feature insight into the brief, creative idea, production challenges and results of the “Gun Safe Cities Live Activation” campaign, by Havas Johannesburg, which launched in July 2019.

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Client: Gun Safe Cities
Ad agency: Havas
Title: Gun Safe Cities Live Activation

Information supplied by Havas Johannesburg.


The charity, Gun Safe Cities, is a group committed to helping reduce gun deaths by encouraging safe use and storage of firearms, and promoting awareness around the dangers of firearms when they are casually and improperly handled.

Creative summary

The idea was to highlight that the people most likely to be shot with one’s firearm is the owner or a family member. Why? Because so many guns aren’t stored and handled as the dangerous things that they are.

We highlighted this fact by inviting people to a shooting range for a fun shooting session. When they looked at the target they had fired at to check their accuracy, they saw that in the middle of the paper target was a picture of themselves, followed by the message that the person most likely to be shot with your gun is you or a member of your family.

Gun Safe Cities by Havas Johannesburg screengrabsProduction

The piece was distributed through social media. News media then picked up the story and it really grabbed attention. Five TV stations, 20 radio stations and numerous print media then picked up the story, and we used social to seed a huge PR campaign.

Gun Safe Cities by Havas Johannesburg screengrabsHavas was surprised by the angry reaction to the campaign, according to John Davenport, Havas chief creative officer. “I think people didn’t take the time to see that we weren’t saying they shouldn’t have guns, just that they need to be stored and looked after very carefully. The extreme reaction included dozens of angry mails, calls and one x death threat on social media….

“The cultural divide between pro-gun and anti-gun worlds is so extreme that there seems no room to listen for either party. As soon as you say anything that isn’t overtly pro-gun, the pro-gun lobby reacts very strongly. They see themselves as a persecuted minority and react accordingly at all times. I was really surprised at how this group reacted. The idea that a gun keeps them safe is so integral to a world view that any conversation around it is almost impossible.

“I think it reflects a world that is increasingly divided and radicalised due to internet conversations and a media world where people only communicate with people who agree with them, and are conditioned to fight with everyone who doesn’t. This may well have been the most interesting part of the whole project.”


The campaign launched in mid-June 2019 and should run to mid-August 2019.


Thus far, we have gained R20m worth of earned media from an initial investment of R5000.



Gun Safe Cities

Ad agency

Havas Johannesburg
Chief creative officer: John Davenport
Executive creative director: Fiona O’Connor
Art director: Luigi Morrico
Copywriter: Carl Wilsnach

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2 replies on “#Campaigns: Gun Safe Cities campaign shows cultural divide”

  1. This is why Gun Safes are important because of the cases reported about the negligence of the owners of the gun. Misplacing and Mishandling guns can be a dangerous practice if someone is not responsible to the issues about problem.
    I am not a Pro-Gun nor an Anti-Gun, my opinion is that we should ALWAYS put that in mind that everytime we carry a GUN, ALWAYS think it is loaded and can be fatal, and ALWAYS be RESPONSIBLE when it comes to safety. Maybe some people should undergo counseling and seminar about How BIG the Responsibility when owning a gun.

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