Online & Digital

Harmless Guns


Issue 50 | February 2019


TBWA Paris

Creative Team

CCOs Benjamin Marchal, Faustin Claverie Art Director François Claux Copywriter Swann Richard Editing & Motion Graphic Design Nicolas Duval

Production Team

Production & Sound Production TBWA\Else CEO Maxime Boiron Producer Cathy Pericone Production Coordinator Lea Gosselin

Other Credits

Agency Manager Matthéo Pressmar Chief Data Officer Basile Viault Advertising Managers Matthieu Régnier, Gauthier Vignon


January 2019


3D printers are a veritable revolution. It is now possible to print almost anything at home. All you need are the blueprint files for any of the millions of items available online. Unfortunately, among these items are files to print real firearms. Accessible without restrictions and in just a few clicks, anyone who owns a 3D printer can manufacture fully functioning weapons that are untraceable and undetectable. They’re untraceable because 3D printed firearms have no serial number. And undetectable because, being made of plastic, they pass easily through security checkpoints.


To counteract the spread of weapon source files, DAGOMA, the market leader in 3D printing in Europe, launched Operation Harmless Guns. The idea was to take real firearm source files and modify them so that none of the pieces would fit together, rendering the printed weapon completely harmless. To ensure that these files were considered genuine by users, all of the changes made were imperceptible to the naked eye: weight, appearance, name, composition. These files were distributed wherever the originals had been found: forums, websites, 3D model platforms.

Hundreds of modified files were posted online to make it extremely difficult to access real files, thus making it difficult for anyone wanting to make their own pistol or semi-automatic weapon.


With no media investment, and in less than 10 days, the campaign had spread to 18 countries beyond France, including the USA, Australia, Russia and Chile.

The video was viewed than 46,000 times, accumulating more than five million media impressions, and 1,233 positive reactions (likes & shares).

Our Thoughts

I’ve written elsewhere about the paradoxical times we live in and here’s another example.

In order to stop people being violently antisocial, TBWA have had an idea that is, essentially, antisocial. Dumping fake code on the internet is the sort of thing that would usually get you a digital spanking but it’s very difficult to disapprove of an idea which sets out to save lives. And, as far as I can see, there have not been any dislikes and negative comments.

It’s the same paradox that sees large companies hire practised hackers to help secure them against hackers.

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