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Behaviour change + Content & creative + PR & communications for Attorney-General’s Department

Attorney-General’s Department

National Firearms Amnesty Campaign

Icon was appointed by the Australian Government’s Attorney-General’s Department in early 2017 to design an amnesty campaign aimed at reducing the number of unregistered firearms in the community.

During the amnesty people could hand in unregistered firearms or firearm-related items for registration or destruction without penalty and without fear of prosecution.

The ‘Now’s the time’ behaviour change campaign ran from 1 July to 30 September 2017, resulting in over 50,000 firearms being handed in.

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Raising public awareness and driving action

In 2017 the Australian Government’s Attorney-General’s Department tasked Icon with creating a campaign for the National Firearms Amnesty (NFA), with three primary objectives:

  1. Raise public awareness of the NFA, including its purpose and benefits, and convey that it’s everyone’s responsibility to remove unregistered guns from their communities.

  2. Encourage the public to learn more and get engaged by visiting the NFA website or by calling the helpline for more information.

  3. Drive take-up of the amnesty offer via handing in, registering or selling unregistered firearms.

To achieve these goals, Icon provided strategy-led PR and creative solutions that leveraged insights and behaviour change methodology to amplify key campaign messages and connect with the target audience.

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Understanding audience categories and changing public perception

The primary challenge we faced was the need to change the perceptions and behaviours of unregistered firearms owners. Research indicated that the target audience fit into four categories, ranging from people who would gladly take advantage of the amnesty to relinquish unwanted firearms, to people who deliberately owned unregistered firearms and were skeptical about an amnesty.

Research also indicated that – for many – the primary reason for owning an unregistered firearm was inertia; given that owners were already in possession of an illegal firearm, and thus in breach of the law, they were reluctant to draw attention to themselves.

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Designing a communications strategy with a strong sense of urgency

The key to this campaign’s success was a call to action with a strong sense urgency – a ‘circuit breaker’ approach. Building upon the theme of ‘Now’s the time’, our campaign challenged the complacency that often goes hand-in-hand with unregistered firearm ownership.

To achieve the objectives of the NFA 2017, Icon’s creative studio produced a suite of collateral that communicated the amnesty through positive messaging, focusing on the benefits of the amnesty rather than the risks inherent to possessing an unregistered firearm.

The communications were designed to resonate with the target audience as follows:

Think: ‘It’s now or never. I have three months to sort out that gun.’
Feel: ‘I know I really should do something about that gun. I don’t want to cop a fine.’
Do: ‘Handing it in seems easy enough, and I can choose to dispose of, register or sell it – but I need to act now to avoid a penalty.’

Concise, direct and inviting, the campaign gave people a compelling reason to do what they knew was right.

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50k+ Firearms handed in over a three-month campaign

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Australians had handed in close to 51,000 illegal firearms during the three-month national firearms amnesty.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s official statement:

Australia's 3 month National Firearms Amnesty has led to more than 50,000 firearms being handed in across Australia.

This is an overwhelming response and represents a significant reduction in the number of unregistered firearms in the Australian community.

Australia has some of the strongest gun laws in the world but illicit firearms remain a threat to community safety.

As a result of this successful amnesty, there are now 51,000 fewer firearms on the streets.