Gun violence continues to escalate in the U.S., with deaths rising to their highest levels in more than 20 years in 2020 — and this year is already shaping up to be worse. Yet little seems to be happening to stop the bloodshed.

So Change the Ref, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by parents of kids killed in Parkland, Florida, takes a shocking — and effective — new direction with this campaign, bringing a young victim back to life to express his frustration.

This “deepfake” video, made with AI, is haunting. It reincarnates 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, one of the students slain in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

Furious at government inaction, Joaquin pleads with people to vote for politicians who value human life over contributions from the gun lobby. And it didn’t waste its shock value, steering viewers to 

There, people could replace Joaquin’s vote and those of other gun violence victims. Once people pledged their vote for a victim, the entire experience and social content became personalized with that victim’s story. 

Working with McCann Health and a budget of just $100,000, its impact was immense. The film got 2.4 million views in its first 24 hours, global broadcast news coverage and became the No. 1 trending topic on Fox News.  And on Valentine’s Day, the third anniversary of Joaquin’s death, President Joe Biden announced demands for commonsense gun law reforms, including background checks, banning assault weapons and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers.

Our judges were in unanimous agreement: This campaign is “the very best of the best,” perfect down to the last detail.