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In wake of Newtown massacre, Toronto agency creates TV spot for advocacy group

The ‘No More Silence’ spot juxtaposes shots of a person carrying a gun into a school while people observe a moment of silence for Newtown.

It's enough to leave anyone speechless.

The recordings released Wednesday of panicked calls to 911 during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are a sobering reminder of the people – including 20 children – who died in Newtown, Conn., almost a year ago. Silence, whether it is from shock or as a show of respect, is a common response to tragedies such as this. But a new ad campaign is urging just the opposite.

The ads, titled No More Silence, will run online and on television in the United States around the Newtown anniversary and through the holiday season. While they are intended for an American audience, they were made in Canada.

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Ad agency Grey Toronto is continuing its work with the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded the day after the shooting. Its relationship with Grey started earlier this year.

The 60-second commercial, set to the sound of a ticking clock, shows people observing a moment of silence for Newtown. It is juxtaposed with shots of an unidentified person entering a school building carrying an assault rifle. The ad cites the statistic that there have been 26 shootings in schools in the United States since the Sandy Hook massacre and asks: "Is silence what America needs right now?"

The campaign – for which the Moms group has partnered with the coalition group founded by Michael Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns – is also organizing events in 35 states on Dec. 14. People attending these gatherings will ring bells to mark the anniversary and encourage others to write to their government representatives asking for gun-legislation reforms.

The last time the Moms Demand Action group ran television ads was in April, in the run-up to a vote in the U.S. Senate on revamped gun-control laws that were proposed in the wake of Sandy Hook. Those proposals were defeated. After the vote, the group raised more funds in 48 hours than it had in its first four months of existence.

"We want to keep their inability to act at the forefront of mothers' minds, especially as we go into midterms," said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action. "I really believe this could be one of the top three voting issues for women in this country."

Grey Group Canada – owned by U.K. ad agency holding company giant WPP – got noticed for its print ads for the group as well. Those showed children holding items such as a Kinder Egg, a dodge ball or a copy of a banned book, standing alongside another child holding a gun. The ads were meant to highlight the items that have been banned in some states to protect children, while gun control still meets resistance. Those ads won an award at the Cannes advertising festival this summer.

"It's been a year now, and this subject matter is starting to wane," said Patrick Scissons, chief creative officer at Grey in Toronto. "It's not saying we shouldn't have these moments of silence. It's saying America needs more than silence."

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According to Ms. Watts, working with a Canadian agency has helped the group to craft its message. "Whenever you work with someone from another country, they are shocked by the absurdity of our laws," she said. "That shootings are a constant in this country, is shocking to them. That helps bring some perspective."

Editor's note: An earlier headline on this story incorrectly described a U.S. advocacy group as anti-gun. In fact, they favour gun regulation.

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