Brady Campaign Does PR Pratfall with Ad Campaign that Gives Mass Shooters More Fame, Offends Victims

Gun violence prevention activists have launched a petition calling for the Brady Campaign to take down its "hypocritical" new "Zero Minutes of Fame" video ad which spotlights the very mass shooters that the campaign is designed to obscure. Brady launched the campaign with the help of marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, which claimed that the campaign was "sure to cause no controversy whatsoever with anyone."

The Change.org petition to take down the misfired advertising campaign video states:

Brady's new "Zero Minutes of Fame" Chrome plug-in claims to help prevent mass shooters from gaining fame by blocking their names and faces from users who voluntarily download the plug-in. However, the video features the faces of those same fame-seeking mass shooters repeatedly while an announcer intones their names. The video shows photos of numerous shooting victims, and ends with a montage of 16 of their killers' faces.

It appears that the campaign was also poorly executed in ways that offend gun violence survivors by misidentifying three school children who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, and by failing to secure their families' permission to use their photos. The petition states: "Brady also clearly uses this video to build their mailing list in order to solicit financial contributions without permission." Viewers who download the Chrome extension are steered to a Brady Campaign petition and asked to make donations.

According the petition against this controversial campaign:

This is an unethical ploy to raise money while giving a false promise of lessening mass shooters' notoriety all while actually making them even more famous. This campaign re-victimizes members of the gun violence prevention community.

To see what the fuss was about, I downloaded and tested the "Zero Minutes of Fame" Chrome extension, and posted my review. I Googled a list of America's 30 most famous mass shooters, and found that the extension failed to block the names of six -- a 20% failure rate. At the same time, the extension sometimes annoyingly blocked the name of an instructor at the Naval War College who is not a mass shooter but who happens to share the name of one.

The Brady Campaign would have been better served if they had not launched an ill-conceived and poorly fact-checked ad campaign that gives mass shooters 15 more minutes of fame, along with a buggy Chrome extension that censors the names and images of innocent people, all while failing to deliver on the promise of making mass shooters less famous.

Instead of downloading this faulty Chrome extension, which to date has fewer than a dozen users, I recommend that you support the No Notoriety Campaign, which since 2012 has challenged the media to practice responsible coverage, focus more on gun violence victims, and stop glorifying mass shooters, for the sake of public health and safety.

Disclosure: I am the former Chief Communications Officer for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. I deeply respect the legacy of James and Sarah Brady, which is why I urge the senior leadership of Brady to do the right thing by ending this ad campaign, and by apologizing for revictimizing gun violence victims and their families.

Update: In response to public pressure, on April 28, the Brady Campaign has removed all but the final 14 seconds of the original video that promoted the names and faces of mass shooters.