How Northwell Health used a tiger to make it easier for parents to ask about guns

Firearms have overtaken motor-vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the U.S.

The campaign aims to make it easier for parents to ask about guns.

NEW HYDE PARK, NY: A recently launched campaign is trying to reduce the number of children who die from gun violence by encouraging New Yorkers to ask hosts whether they have unlocked guns in their home.

Northwell Health, a nonprofit healthcare provider in New York, launched the Ferocious Tiger campaign this fall with a television spot. The organization developed the campaign with the StrawberryFrog creative agency; Fancy Content, a video production service; and Mackcut, a video-editing service.

Northwell created the campaign because, in recent years, firearms have overtaken motor-vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the U.S. In 2020, 4,357 children were killed with firearms, which marked an almost 30% increase from the previous year, according to reports from the New England Journal of Medicine and the Kaiser Family Foundation

Northwell wanted to get “the message out that it’s okay to ask when you drop your kids off  whether the home you're dropping them off at has guns locked up,” said Scott Goodson, founder and CEO of StrawberryFrog. “It's a healthcare epidemic. If you go into emergency rooms, you see these children, and I think the purpose of this effort was really to make it easier for people to ask this question.”

The video spot takes a comedic approach to the serious issue. Parents arrive at the door to drop their child off and warmly greet the other set of parents. 

“We just wanted to ask — and it’s totally cool, there’s no issue — the uhh, uhh. The tiger?” the father asks hesitatingly. 

A tiger roars in the background.

“We were just wondering if he will be locked up?” asks the mom. 

The host parents assure them that “We never let him out with kids around.”

Text then appears stating: “An unlocked gun can be just as dangerous.”

A narrator tells parents, “It doesn’t kill to ask about unlocked guns in a house. Guns are now the leading cause of death for kids.”

The campaign opted for the tiger metaphor because “it's captivating, and it tells the story in a way that draws you in. There's an element of: ‘why is there a tiger? Why do the parents seem to be totally okay with the fact that there's a tiger in the home?’” said Goodson. “It kind of brings you into a normal day-to-day situation. Every parent has at some point dropped their kid off at someone's home, and so we started with that, and then we delivered the powerful message, which is: ‘if they have their tiger locked up, ask if they have their guns locked up.’”

The campaign will be effective despite the fact that guns are a hot-button topic because the campaign doesn’t take a position on gun ownership but is instead “intended to be relevant to everyone who cares about the children,” Goodson argued.

This is not the first attempt to encourage parents to ask about gun safety. In 2000, the Million Moms March, an event to call for stricter gun control, launched the Asking Saves Kids campaign, which pushed parents to ask, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?”

But since then, the number of child firearms deaths in the U.S. has increased by 42%. The U.S. is the only large and wealthy country to see an increase in such deaths over the last two decades, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

This campaign could be more effective than previous anti-gun violence campaigns because “we lean in on the idea of the taboo, of being afraid to ask the question: do you have unlocked guns in your home?” Goodson said. “It’s going to build on any goodwill that has existed. This is a new moment in time, and the work we have done is bold and arresting.”

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