The Ad Council has launched an initiative to prevent gun violence by reframing it as a public health issue, amid what it calls an urgent crisis of violence in the U.S.

The initiative announced Tuesday morning sprouts from a partnership between the Ad Council and the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety — a coalition of health system CEOs that are pledging an initial $10 million funding round to the campaign.

The goal of the effort is to raise awareness and improve education around gun violence — particularly its impact on young people. 

The organization noted in a statement that this marks a shift away from what it deems “divisive, politically charged conversations” around firearms and instead leverages public health approaches to end the violence.

Ultimately, the campaign aims to teach both gun owners and non-gun owners about preventive steps they can take to improve safety around guns.

“Gun injuries are the No. 1 killer of youth in America, a fact that demands action,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, in a statement. “American hospitals deal with the ramifications of gun violence every day and we’re proud to partner with our nation’s leading hospitals and health systems, public health experts and some of the best minds in the media and advertising communities to educate individuals on actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of gun violence.”

In addition to the seed $10 million donation from the National Health Care CEO Council on Gun Violence Prevention and Safety, the Ad Council hopes to raise $40 million over the course of two years, with that money being used to reduce firearm deaths and injuries.

Other partners will be involved in the initiative, including ad agencies such as Gut Miami, which will provide pro-bono support for the campaign.

Advertising against gun violence

The debate around guns in America is one of the most fraught in public discourse.

While gun violence is an issue that has historically been highly politicized, a survey published by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health last year found broad consensus among Americans — regardless of political affiliation — on gun violence prevention policies.

Given the widespread support for action to mitigate the injuries and deaths caused by guns, the Ad Council and other advertisers have stepped up their efforts in recent years. 

Last year, the Ad Council launched its multimedia Safe Stories PSA campaign in conjunction with gun violence nonprofit Brady and creative agency Dentsu to promote gun suicide prevention.

This was part of the larger End Family Fire effort to involve gun owners in conversations and policies aimed at reducing the number of preventable firearm deaths.

In mid-2023, Brady teamed with BCW North America for an ad spot titled A Story of Survival, which was part of a campaign aimed at reducing gun violence. 

As for the Ad Council, its Research Institute and The Joyce Foundation released findings from a study on extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) and found that less than 10% of those surveyed were “very familiar” with these red flag gun laws and could effectively utilize them if needed.

The mission of ending gun violence was also discussed at panels at Advertising Week New York last fall. 

This gun violence initiative follows on the heels of a campaign in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention targeting substance abuse.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a trained listener, call 988. Visit for crisis chat services or for more information.

For an April 2024 article on the Ad Council and IDPH Pause to Heal effort, click here.