Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream takes dramatic turn in new Sandy Hook PSA

Sandy Hook

This is a hard one to watch. But you have to. BBDO, New York has returned with a dramatic new PSA for leading gun violence prevention organization, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP). And it’s our Reel Ad of the Week.

Launching yesterday, the new film, ironically titled Teenage Dream, illustrates how being a teenager is not the carefree life it once was portrayed to be. By subverting Katy Perry’s famous ode to teenage innocence with a re-recording featuring real school shooting survivors reciting the lyrics, the emotive PSA illustrates how the teenage dream is stolen from those impacted by school shootings and underscores the critical importance of prevention. 

Teenage Dream features school shooting survivors from across the country who are experiencing varying degrees of physical and mental trauma, most of whom have severe PTSD, including: 

  • Chase Yarborough, 20: Shot 6 times while trying to run away from the shooter in the Santa Fe High School shooting. He currently has 4 bullets in his body, including his head and head. 
  • Hannah Dysinger, 20: Shot in the ribcage by the bullet that killed her best friend in the Marshall County High School shooting. 
  • The Dworet Family: Sons, Nick and Alex, were shot in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Nick was killed in the shooting, and Alex was shot in the neck. Nick’s friend Aalayah Eastmond (also featured in the video) hid under his dead body to avoid being shot.

Watch below:

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“While we debate mask mandates to protect our kids in schools, the epidemic of gun violence rages on with our kids in more danger than ever,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting. “This year has been the deadliest for gun violence ever recorded. The combination of extreme mental and emotional challenges and greater access to guns increases the risk for school shootings and other acts of self-harm and violence. I encourage everyone to learn the warning signs and speak up to get help before it’s too late.”

“All the stories we tell with Sandy Hook Promise are human stories – about the people on either side of the gun in a shooting. It’s how we connect with our audience in a relatable, emotional way,” adds Peter Alsante, executive creative director for BBDO New York. “Teenage Dream tells the ultimate human story, about what real teenagers have lost as a result of gun violence.”

The film was helmed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director Alex-Henry Rubin of SMUGGLER who is partnering with BBDO NY and SHP for the fifth time. The team’s prior gun violence prevention campaigns have been highly acclaimed, including the Emmy Award-winning “Back-to-School Essentials,” the Emmy-nominated “Point of View,” and multiple award-winning “Evan.” 

To date, SHP’s PSAs have won a combined 22 prestigious Cannes Lion awards

“We just don’t realize what a giant and ongoing problem school shootings are. For most of us it’s just another shooting on TV but, for these kids and their families, the effects linger long after the shooting stops,” said Henry-Alex Rubin, Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director. “I’m hoping this film can honor those who have endured or survived this kind of violence.”

The state of youth mental health coming out of the pandemic and last year’s record levels of gun violence has educators, parents, students and organizations like Sandy Hook Promise deeply worried about the possibility of a “powder keg” effect.

The message to “know the signs” to prevent violence is crucial for this year’s back-to-school season, as many kids report experiencing mental and emotional challenges including feelings of extreme stress, anxiety, isolation, and depression. SHP provides a downloadable “Know the Signs” guide that highlights many of the warning signs of violence to look for and seek help. The guide is available at sandyhookpromise.org. 

School shootings should not be a part of growing up. The tragic impact of a school shooting affects the loved ones of those who were killed and survivors, like those in this PSA, carry mental and emotional wounds — beyond the physical scars — that never truly heal.


CLIENT: Sandy Hook Promise


  • Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
  • Executive Creative Director: Peter Alsante
  • Creative Director: Jim Connolly
  • Art Director: Samantha Spellman
  • Copywriter: Sandi Spino
  • Executive Producer, Director of Content Production: Alex Gianni
  • Producer: Molly Ross
  • Designer: Jong Yeu Wu
  • Senior Music Producer: Julia Millison
  • SVP Senior Director: Lindsey Cash
  • SVP Account Director: Ann Kim
  • Account Executive: Charlotte Manzone
  • VP Planning Director: Ben Bass
  • Planner: Kamillah Collins
  • Influencer Manager: Lucy Bennett
  • SVP Director of Production Services: Jessica Nugent
  • Business Manager: Grace Kelly

PR AGENCY: Dini von Mueffling Communications

  • Founder and CEO: Dini von Mueffling
  • Publicist: Stephanie Morris
  • Publicist: Lily Seibert


  • Strategy Director: Nichole Verost
  • Strategist: Jake Brady
  • Activation: Caitlin Crawford, Grace Brandus, Jessi Searing, Natalie Stephan, Rachel Easton, Emma Rayder
  • Donation Outreach: Steven Bloom (OMG), Bryan Master (OMG), Seth Glosman


  • Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
  • Executive Producer: Patrick Milling-Smith / Brian Carmody / Drew Santarsiero
  • Head of Production: Alex Hughes
  • Producer: Leah Allina
  • Associate Producer: Michelle Mehn / Mark Perez
  • Line Producer (New York Prep): Catalina Restrepo
  • Production Supervisor: Holland Kemp
  • Assistant Production Supervisor: Carly Rehm
  • 1st AD: Anthony Dimino
  • Director of Photographer: David Devlin
  • Production Designer: Alex Fagin
  • Wardrobe Stylist: Young-Ah Kim/Jessica Bonanza
  • Casting Directors: Leah Allina and Lev Abramoff


  • Executive Producer: Gina Pagano
  • Editor: Ian MacKenzie
  • Assistant Editor: Cooper McLane
  • Lead Flame Artist: Jimmy Hayhow
  • Interview Editors: Franklin Ponce & Mike Leuis

TELECINE: Color Collective

  • Telecine Artist: Alex Bickel
  • Executive Producer: Claudia Guevara

MUSIC: Human

  • Audio Post: Post Human
  • Creative Lead and Chief Engineer: Sloan Alexander
  • Executive Producer: James Dean Wells
  • Arrangers: Thomas Kerry & Sloan Alexander
  • Song: “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry
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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1