The Trace featured an article by Olivia Li on Ads (Courtesy Advertising Age) from 1968 that are relevant to today’s Gun Debate.
After the assassination of three American icons, a group of mad men launched a no-holds-barred campaign in support of a landmark gun control bill.
The first to be gunned down was a president, John F. Kennedy, killed by a sniper’s bullet in Dallas in 1963. Five years later, the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on his hotel balcony in Memphis. Then, just two months later, JFK’s would-be successor, his little brother Robert F. Kennedy, was fatally shot in the kitchen of a California hotel, after a presidential campaign event.
For Americans who came of age after the 1960s, it’s impossible to fully comprehend the emotional toll exacted on the nation by the spate of political assassinations that marked that turbulent decade. But reminders of the raw emotion that filled the ensuing calls for gun reform abound in news archives from the era. Sometimes, the strong rhetoric even spilled over from editorial pages into the accompanying advertising.
After RFK’s death, the editors at Advertising Age issued an unprecedented challenge to the industry it covers. The publication called on its readers to create ads meant to provoke popular support for a bill that would bring about significant new restrictions on gun ownership: banning felons and the mentally ill from buying firearms, and establishing a licensing system for gun sellers. The bill had languished in Congress for years.
“In the strongest possible terms, we urge … all the panoply of national and regional associations in the media, advertising, marketing, and related fields, to get behind a massive effort to reduce the tremendous hazards of a gun-riddled society, and to get at it right now,” the editorial said.
It intoned: “Can there be any doubt anywhere that violence and contempt for law and order are doing their rotten best to tear American society apart?”