Sandy Hook Promise Commemorates Victims' Deaths

Wanda Sykes

Sandy Hook Promise is launching a PSA to honor the birthday of one of the school shooting’s young victims. 

Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, lost his son Daniel in the 2012 mass shooting. Daniel would have turned 18 on the Sept. 27.

The spot, “Just Joking,” was produced in partnership with BBDO New York. It features comedians Billy Eichner, Wanda Sykes, David Cross, Margaret Cho, Jay Phaoroh, Roy Wood Jr., Iliza Shlesinger, Caitlin Reilly and Rachel Bloom. 

The comedians are shown reciting phrases that real-life school shooters posted or said prior to their massacres -- threats that were generally ignored, leading to mass shootings.

The spot's goal is to tell people to take threats of violence seriously, says Dawn Lyons, chief operating officer at Sandy Hook Promise. 



“Our research has proven that something as simple as ‘saying something’ can prevent tragedies,” Lyons tells Marketing Daily. ”It is imperative to reach out with this message and ensure folks feel empowered to report threats and not dismiss them as a joke, because gun violence is preventable.”

The nonprofit worked with  director Henry-Alex Rubin, as well as Smuggler, a commercial, documentary, film and theater production company. 

“Over the past few years, one question we’ve heard consistently, especially from youth in our programs, is why don’t people actually say something after they’ve learned about a warning sign and then see it in real life?” Lyons says. “That’s where the insight behind this PSA comes from -- we’re focusing on reminding people not just how to recognize warning signs, but also how to report them."

The spot launched exclusively this week on the MSNBC show "Morning Joe."

“We are collaborating with broadcast and print partners for further amplification efforts,” Lyons says. “Working with our partners at BBDO, we’ve also created assets for print, digital, out-of-home, and radio to drive our messaging. We also anticipate receiving between $9 to $12 million in donated media through the end of the year, with help from our partners at Boom Broadcast and our Media Advisory Board.”

As of earlier this month, the United States had surpassed over 500 mass shootings in 2023 alone.

“It’s disheartening to see that rates of gun violence are increasing, but we see how much folks want to take action, and we remain hopeful that more can be done to curb the gun violence epidemic, especially through preventative measures,” Lyons says. “Through this PSA, we want people to understand that every one of us has the power to prevent gun violence, and that begins with something as simple as learning and responding to warning signs of violence.”

The nonprofit consistently produces award-winning PSAs.

Sandy Hook Promise took home an Emmy in 2022 in the outstanding commercial category for a spot called “Teenage Dream.” It was the third time that the anti-gun-violence group, working with Omnicom's BBDO and production house Smuggler, has won the outstanding commercial Emmy. BBDO New York also created “Back-to-School Essentials,” as well as the Emmy-nominated “Point of View,” and multiple award-winning “Evan.” 

“We hope that people viewing the PSA walk away with the understanding that they must take any threat of violence seriously,” Lyons says. “Since all of the threats highlighted in the PSA were said by individuals before they committed school shootings, we want people to be aware of the deadly consequences of dismissing or ignoring warning signs of violence.”

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