LONDON Jan. 26, 2006 — -- British moviegoers will be shown a spoof TV-shopping advertisement for an AK47 assault rifle as part of a shock campaign designed to increase awareness of the illegal arms trade.
The presenters glorify firepower and the merits of the AK47, and a young boy demonstrates how a Kalashnikov works.
Viewers are even told they will receive free ammunition when they call to place their orders with the phony advertiser, Teleshop.
The cinema ad is part of a much wider campaign. A glossy mail order "small arms catalog" will be sent to thousands of homes and will feature models posing with machine guns and automatic pistols. A viral e-mail campaign will surprise Internet users with fake special offers for weapons.
If that's not enough, a "roadshow" will tour shopping centers across the country, with people pretending to be company representatives demonstrating the ease with which an AK47 can be assembled and fired.
The mock advertisement will be shown in 300 cinemas, reaching an estimated 2 million people over a four-week period. The viewers are urged to text in their name as part of a petition to the British government urging tough control of the sales of deadly weapons.
"Some people might find our Teleshop advert disturbing. But what's truly shocking is that one person dies every minute from armed violence," Amnesty International U.K .director Kate Allen said.
Arms controls around the world are riddled with loopholes, allowing weapons to be sold to conflict zones and countries that repress and torture their people. The global arms trade is now worth $21 billion a year.
"Shock advertising" isn't a groundbreaking idea. Italian fashion retailer Benetton became synonymous in the 1980s and '90s, with campaigns that used images of a dying AIDS patient and a dead soldier's blood-splattered uniform.
But this time around, it is hoped that the shock tactic might coerce at least 1 million people to join the petition to put the arms control issue on the British government's agenda at a UN meeting in June.