‘Not allowed’ evolves

How Grey Toronto's work with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has unfolded into this latest campaign.

While Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have been effective in getting many U.S. restaurants and retailers to stand on their side and not allow the open carrying of guns in their stores, one of the big holdouts has been grocery retailer Kroger and its affiliates. In a new campaign from the grassroots group and Grey Toronto, the hope is that an appeal to the chain’s common sense, and its wallet, will help change its mind on the policy.

“Not Allowed” is a video version of a concept that debuted in radio ads last year and aired leading up to Kroger’s annual general meeting. In the video, a teen on a skateboard, a woman with a dog and a mother toting around a toddler holding a squirt gun are all told what they have with them is not permitted in the store due to safety concerns. All this happens while a man walks the aisles and past the cashier with an assault weapon hanging on his back.

The campaign is also being supported with a similar concept in print. More creative, all handled by Grey Toronto, will be rolling out in the near future.

“The campaign, in some instances, might be very visually disruptive, but it’s always meant to be grounded in certain truths that Americans need to look at and think about if this is the kind of country they want to get behind,” says Patrick Scissons, CCO at Grey Toronto. “One big learning we’ve gained from this work is that all of the media debate, on both sides of the issue, can be numbing because there’s so much of it. Greater credibility comes with being truthful and not sensationalizing, because if you do that, you’re just doing the same thing the NRA is doing. That has gone a long way in terms of bringing not only a lot of the moderates, but a growing number of gun owners to support the cause.”

Grey Toronto has been working with Moms Demand Action since shortly after it was formed following the tragic 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. Scissons was on vacation in the U.S. when he saw the group’s founder, Shannon Watts, on the news and reached out to her directly to find ways to help their cause.

“Being north of the border allows for a bit more of a bird’s eye view, to be outside looking in and not necessarily be as close to the sensitivity around it,” Scissons says.

“I was born and raised in Saskatchewan and grew up around guns. I have a good perspective having been a gun owner, relative to what the issue really is. It’s more of a policy issue, in terms of getting corporations to put their own stricter gun policies in place if the government chooses not to.”

Petitions and campaigns by the group have led many U.S. retailers to reconsider their stance on allowing customers to “open carry” firearms in their stores, including Target, Costco, Whole Foods, Chipotle and, recently, Safeway & Albertsons, the country’s second-largest grocery chain. One of the most attention-grabbing campaigns was aimed at Starbucks last year, urging consumers to participate in #SkipStarbucksSaturday, a move that saw the company’s CEO reverse his stance on open carry.

Grey’s work with Moms Demand Action is somewhat unique in that it not only targets customers, but the companies themselves, and things like #SkipStarbucksSaturday show it may be more effective to reach corporations by appealing to their economic sensibilities in addition to their moral ones.

Along with the new campaign, Grey and Moms Demand Action have also launched “World’s Largest Receipt.” An extension of the boycott of Kroger and its affiliate stores that began last year, the website allows people to input the amount they’ve spent at the grocery store’s competitors, a tally that has topped $31,000 as of this morning, less than 24 hours after launch (Update: as of noon, it is nearing $200,000).

“The thought was to bring some tangibility and show people what the economic impact is so shareholders understand that this doesn’t just have social and cultural ramifications from a safety standpoint,” Scissons says. “It’s also going to affect the bottom line.”