Back to School with BBDO New York

Back to School with BBDO New York

By Alixandra Rutnik Posted on Feb 26, 2020

Behind the scenes with the “Back to School Essentials” creative team

The results are in for The One Club for Creativity’s annual Film Festival; The One Screen 2020 winners are films with a purpose, and Best Of Show goes to BBDO New York’s “Back to School Essentials.”

 You can’t watch many of this year’s winning films without feeling something raw. We’re talking about films with intense social and political topics that people usually want to avoid, but can’t. “Back to School Essentials” contunues BBDO New York's tradition of breathtaking and emotional work for anti-school violence activists Sandy Hook Promise. The film is shocking, twisting the standard end-of-summer school supplies commercial into something much more distrubing. 

In light of their One Screen Best of Show win, we caught up with BBDO New York Senior Creative Directors Bianca Guimaraes and Peter Alsante to talk to us about "Back To School Essentials", shedding some insight into the creation  of this short yet powerful film.

The video starts off seemingly normal and then takes a turn to the dark side– typical school supplies are turned into weapons for self-defense; colored pencils, socks, scissors, iPhones take on a whole new meaning. What inspired you to cover school shootings from this angle?


Peter: School shootings are increasingly seen as inevitable, with schools teaching kids how to survive shootings rather than preventing them in the first place. And with our campaign launching during back-to-school time, we knew school shootings were on the minds of parents, teachers, and students as they prepared for the new school year.

We wanted to show what a back-to-school ad could look like in this reality where lockdown drills and gun violence are seen as the new normal.

We explored a range of ideas with different tones– many playing off of the idea of this new normal where kids are dealing with school shootings and lockdown drills instead of the other normal things kids worry about.


What was it like crafting this video?

Bianca: Crafting the story was a lot about finding the right balance between the satire and the seriousness of the subject in hand. We worked closely with director Henry-Alex Rubin to thread that narrative. We covered a range of performances from the actors, from brighter to more scared, so we could play with that in the edit and see what worked best to progress the story.

We shot in LA for two days and edited in New York with Jason MacDonald at NO6.

Visually we wanted the spot to look bright and happy, so it didn’t tip people off from the start. We made sure the colors were saturated and kind of flat, and the music was energetic just like your typical back-to-school ad.

The first title of the campaign was “The Most Important Back-to-school Ad”. We then decided to change it to “Back-to-school Essentials” because it didn’t tip off the viewer to the fact that there was an unexpected turn coming in the ad.

We had two teams explore the notion of parodying back-to-school ads and they both did a fantastic job so we ended up having them collaborate in the final script.

Regarding the length of the film, there wasn’t a media buy so we didn’t need to stick to a specific timing. We ended up close to the one minute mark and that was plenty of time to send our message. We shot more vignettes than we show in the final cut so that we could explore a range of ways to tell and reveal our story.


This is a video to promote awareness for school shootings, what is your goal for creating this video?

Bianca: The goal is for everyone to realize that there’s nothing normal about the new normal. School shootings are preventable, so we need to start teaching kids how to prevent them, instead of just teaching them how to survive them. To date, Sandy Hook Promise has educated more than 11 million people with their programs and practices.

Sandy Hook Promise has been our partner for about six years and we’re extremely proud and humbled to help them in this journey. We have an enormous admiration for the work they do and the strength they have in turning their unimaginable tragedy into such an important mission for good.


What is your favorite part about this campaign?

Bianca: The impact that it’s made is probably the most rewarding part. The news about school shootings is also becoming normal, and people are becoming desensitized to it. It was important that the campaign rose above this and reminded everyone of how messed up this new reality is. Within a week of launching, visits to Sandy Hook Promise’s website increased by 400%. The campaign was featured in every major national news network, and it was tweeted by eleven of the presidential candidates.


Congrats on the award! How do you feel about winning Best of Show for “Back to School Essentials?”

Peter: Thank you! It’s an honor to receive such a prestigious recognition. We know this is such an important cause, so it means a lot to us and to our client to receive recognition for the work we're doing to raise awareness and affect the way people think about it.



The winners of One Screen 2020 are now available for viewing.



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