McKinney’s “Family Fire” Ad Council work delivers powerful message

McKinney’s “Family Fire” Ad Council work delivers powerful message

October 7, 2020

In gaming, there’s always another game or an added life. But when it comes to gun suicide, there is no second chance.

And that’s the message behind McKinney’s creative effort for the Ad Council’s gun suicide prevention “Family Fire” campaign. It takes aim at the role safe storage of guns can play in saving lives of family members — the very lives those guns are meant to protect.

No Extra Life” is the film that launched the latest iteration of the “Family Fire” campaign. It creates a setting familiar to gamers: the look and feel of a first person–shooter game. But this one plays out with tragic helplessness as a man discovers the family gun missing and a loved one failing to respond to his plea to “just open the door.”

The spot, produced by Zoic Studios and directed by Chris Jones, was built with Unreal Engine, the same engine that powers well-known games like Fortnite, Borderlands, and Valorant. And it utilizes “heads up display” visual elements on screen to evoke a gaming environment, and a chat-box that acts as built-in subtitles on social, where viewers might watch with the sound off.

In bringing creativity to bear on grim subject matter, the decision to create the spot in Unreal Engine was a serendipitous one:

“We loved it for the conceptual connection of using an actual game engine to build a gaming-themed spot,” said McKinney GCD Jenny Nicholson. “But on a technical level, using Unreal made it easy to experiment with camera angles, timing and build something robust in less than six weeks. We actually came up with the idea before COVID. But yeah, it definitely didn’t hurt that the concept was well-suited to mid-pandemic production.”

In addition to the “No Extra Life” TV work, thecampaignalso includes radio spots — featuring the voices of real people who have lost family members to gun suicide — as well as work across print, digital and out of home that drives home the dangers of insufficiently storing weapons with statistics that put the impact of gun suicide in harrowing perspective.

But you won’t find any video game references in those other places. Instead of trying to come up with one single idea that works across mediums, we instead tailored each creative asset to the context where it lives. All of the work, and the critically important intent and messaging, will be discussed during the Advertising Week panel, “End Family Fire: Saving Lives in a Polarized Time.”