Why Brian Monahan Wants Us To Learn A New Language

It's still only January and so far, 2023 is off to one hell of a start.
  • We moved ten seconds closer to "midnight," according to The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which this week set their "Doomsday Clock" to its closest point ever (90 seconds to midnight), citing increasing risks of nuclear war, the climate crisis, disinformation and cyber threats.
  • The CEO of ChatGPT developer OpenAI conceded the next generation of AI conceivably could mean "lights out for all of us."
Oh, and the week ends on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, amid growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world.



As far as existential threats go, all of them require our attention and immediate action, but the first one is already happening -- and accelerating -- and sadly seems most practically preventable. All we need is the will to do it. And some organizing principles to help us get on the same page.

I was pleased to see one of those organizers -- the Gun Safety Alliance (GSA) -- this week released some principles for doing that.

And as a bonus, they also named Dentsu Global Client President and head of the Dentsu Innovation Initiative Brian Monahan as GSA executive director. He succeeds Instacart chief Carolyn Everson, who also remains active in the alliance.

Monahan should be no stranger to readers of MediaPost, nor that he has a passion for addressing gun safety in America. He wrote an op-ed for us about it just last year following yet another mass shooting around that time.

What I didn't know until I saw their press release was Monahan's personal connection to the issue: HIs mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School at the time of the mass shooting there.

So what can the advertising, media and communications industry do to help Americans take actionable steps to address the problem?

Monahan says the research that went into the just-released GSA guide reveals "there is language, messaging and framing around common sense gun safety laws and practices that will appeal to a majority of Americans - including gun owners" and it is putting it in the hands of anyone who wants to use it to help "reframe" the way all sides of the political spectrum and both gun owners and non-owners talk about it.

In other words, words matter. And despite the polarizing rhetoric used in media -- both news organization and social media -- the guide is intended to provide a common language for "right-framing" the issue so lawmakers, regulators and law enforcers apply effective polciies addressing gun violence.

Specifically, the guide seeks to expose fallacies and dispel some key myths so Americans can find some common ground.

The first big myth: "There is no common ground."

The second big myth: "There is nothing to be done."

In fact, the research behind the guide found:

  • More than nine in ten gun owners and non-owners agree that gun safety is the responsibility of all gun owners.
  • More than 60 percent of gun owners and 77 percent of non-owners view gun violence in the U.S. as extremely or very serious.

The guide offers some practical examples for reframing the conversation -- including the ads tested below -- to find that common ground.

The rest is just common sense.

Now if someone from the ad biz can do something about the Doomsday Clock and keeping the lights turned on, well, I for one would also appreciate that.

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