Does the “Chilling” School Essentials Video Go Too Far?

The PSA below contains graphic content related to school shootings and may be upsetting to some viewers. If you feel this subject matter may be difficult for you, you may choose not to watch.

Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization led by family members whose loved ones were killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, released a chilling PSA intended to educate viewers about the potential warning signs of school shootings. The PSA begins cheerfully enough––an apparent back-to-school school supply ad––but eerily turns frightening as the students in the ad, who are now defending themselves against an attack, continue to showcase typical back-to-school items such as scissors, colored pencils, socks, even a skateboard. The ad closes with a terrified girl in a dark restroom texting her mother, “I love you mom.”

The ad is clearly shocking. Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting, said in a statement, “So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country. Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn’t have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic.”

The ad certainly gets a viewer’s attention. But does it accomplish its goal? Does it “wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure”? Ads that shock to get attention, particularly PSAs, are no stranger to Media Ethics Report: Some years ago we reported on a shocking “Don’t skip school” ad. What are the moral issues involved in producing ads like this?

Sources: Forbes.com; Sandy Hook Promise

Can Pepsi End Police Brutality?

170405-pepsi-cr-0736_88adcd7bbc4e7a3459e5842cb5c9de14.focal-860x430In April 2017, Pepsi ran an ad that depicted several references to police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Towards the end of the video, Kendall Jenner is shown handing a Pepsi can to a police officer in an effort to show the power of Pepsi in achieving solidarity. The ad was quickly met with backlash from social media users, with several feeling like the ad belittled the nationwide movement following several police shootings of African Americans.

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Depicted on the right is Iesha Evans, a nurse who participated in Black Lives Matter protests in Baton Rouge. Activist DeRay McKesson states that, “This ad trivializes the urgency of the issues and it diminishes the seriousness and the gravity of why we got into the street in the first place.”

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Bernice King, daughter of famous activist Martin Luther King Jr. mocked the ad tweeting, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi”.

Pepsi apologized for the ad and ultimately pulled the controversial ad from circulation.

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The company claimed the ad “features multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments.” They chose Kendall Jenner to star in the ad because they believe she “exemplifies owning ‘Live For Now’ moments.”

Pepsi claims this campaign was to show solidarity with current events going on throughout the nation. Public Relations staff is tasked with the responsibility to oversee campaigns and content meant to increase customer engagement with a product. However, how far is too far? Where is the line between staying current and exploiting important events/movements in order to promote a product?