Twenty little boys and girls and a number of teachers were gunned down in an American school just a few days before I sat down to write this column. While President Obama hints at tightening gun controls in his country, the defenders of “the right to bear arms”, which appears in the American Constitution, have already made it clear that they will oppose any restriction. As someone who grew up in England where even the police are not armed, I find it incomprehensible that someone can even buy a military style semi-automatic rifle. Yet not all the defenders of this open policy on privately owning and carrying guns are mid-west rednecks.

It is going to take a lot of education and persuasion to change minds. More children and adults will die in the USA in the coming years from shooting incidents before common sense prevails.

There are many things in the world like restrictions on girls getting an education, the plight of battered wives or the rise in obesity (which is killing more people than malnutrition these days), that need to change.

The advertising industry has the skills to persuade. In my career, I have convinced thousands of people to test drive a new car model, visit a particular holiday destination or choose one refrigerator over another. Most of you have created successful advertising campaigns in your career. We have an ability honed over years of working with clients and brands.

Imagine how powerful the efforts of art directors and writers would be if they spent a few hours each year using their talent to change the world for the better.

In my second career as a media owner I have given away pages to campaigns fighting against the killing sharks for soup and to ads promoting the vegetarian causes. Larger media owners reach out to tens of thousands of readers or web visitors each day. There is often inventory that is not taken up. Even if the publisher or TV station sets aside space for such ads, it doesn’t actually add to their costs if they commit to a series of ads to help humanity.

I know our AdAsia readers stretch from the USA to India to Australia. Each country has several worthy causes. If we, as an industry, commit time and media space, we can educate and persuade. Public opinion can be changed, politicians galvanised and financial support attracted. It is within our power to make changes.

The USA is still reeling with the shock from hearing about the school children slaughtered in Newtown. Now would be the time for the American advertising agencies and media owners to step up to the mark and start running massive ad campaigns to convince Americans that they do not need to keep a gun in their home or car. I feel more secure in Singapore, home of AdAsia, knowing only the police have guns.

Think now. How can you harness your skills or reach out to your audience to make a difference to society in 2013? What cause can you adopt?

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