Cannes Lions

Joaquin’s First School Shooting

BCW, New York / CHANGE THE REF / 2023

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Gun violence recently surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for American children, but childish politicians are unwilling to implement a ban on assault weapons or enact tougher gun laws. There have been at least 160 mass shootings across the US so far (April, 2023) with 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries in the US during 2021, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's nearly an 8% increase from 2020, which was a record-breaking year for firearm deaths. Change The Ref wants to reduce the influence of the NRA and gun manufacturers through strategic interventions using art as a form of communication.


“Joaquin’s First School Shooting” is a children’s book addressing a frequent topic that should never occur—mass shootings—and targets the childish politicians who refuse to do anything to prevent them. But aside from being a depiction of tragedy, it’s also an earned media tool designed to loosen the grip the gun lobby has over American legislators. 300 copies were published in the first edition, and many were hand-delivered to U.S. lawmakers by Patricia Oliver, Joaquin’s mother, with the intention of being read by politicians on the House floor—as well as survivors to audiences.


To maximize awareness of the book and demonstrate the reality of mass shootings through key images in the book, we leveraged the Oliver’s book distribution event on Capitol Hill leading up to Mother’s Day to target top-tier media. We also identified celebrities, influencers and policymakers to discuss, promote and engage with the book, calling on mothers, voters, and the general population to send copies of the book to policymakers. Following initial outreach, we amplified efforts by pitching an emotional op ed to top tier media written by Patricia Oliver targeted toward parents, calling for a safer world for our children.


The campaign at its core involved the actual publishing of the children’s book (Feb 2023) with a first edition of 300 books to be personally delivered by Patricia and Manuel (Change The Ref’s founder) to politicians, inviting them to read it at the Congress (that they did). The book was also made available to download for free at, accompanied with a shareable narrated video of the whole book. To spread the word even further, people could send a digital copy of the book directly from the website to their representative.


We garnered 140 multimedia and articles combined, garnering 511+M total impressions and reaching 22.7M journalists. Media outreach resulted in a feature in ABC News, resulting in 70+ syndications to markets across the country. Patricia Oliver conducted video interviews in Scripps News, NBC News (syndicated across Florida), Daily Beast and Univision. Change the Ref social channels garnered 20M+ impressions, 41k+ engagements and 609.2k+ views in three days.

Minority Whip Representative Katherine Clark read the book on the House floor, which was covered on C-SPAN. She also hosted a press conference where Patricia spoke about the book. Twelve other congresspeople engaged with the book, including Elizabeth Warren.

Influencers were selected to drive audiences to send copies of the book to lawmakers. At time of entry, influencers include @SusanSarnadon (822k followers), @BetchesSup (606k followers), @MusicCityMom (50k followers) @DelaneyTarr (March For Our Lives Co-Founder; 37.4k followers) and @daddyandpapa (23.6k followers) – posts pending. 

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