The Ad Council, as part of a coordinated public awareness effort announced earlier this year, has launched part one of a holistic approach to tackle the overdose crisis. Educating young Americans about the dangers and prevalence of fentanyl, the first phase of the campaign is funded by leading technology companies Snap and YouTube, with a separate campaign in partnership with Meta that focuses on informing parents of the drug’s dangers launching this Fall.
Drug overdose-related deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, with 2021 seeing a 52 percent increase over the previous two years. The rise in deaths is largely due to the growing presence of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, which were involved in an estimated 66% of overdose deaths during this time period. Over 190 people die each day from overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. While 79% of teens say stress and anxiety are common reasons to misuse prescription medicine, 73% report they hadn’t heard of the risk of fentanyl being added to counterfeit pills.
“Young Americans are dying of fentanyl overdoses at a staggering rate and the time to act is now,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “We’re so grateful to all our partners who are joining us in the fight against the overdose crisis and delivering critical information during a time of need. This powerful coalition is uniquely qualified to reach and influence young people and will allow us to make an extraordinary difference and save lives.”
Illegally manufactured fentanyl has become increasingly prevalent, appearing as a contaminant in illicit powdered drugs and being used to create counterfeit prescription pills. Many young people are unaware of this shift, meaning that there is an increased risk of unexpectedly coming into contact with fentanyl. The campaign, Real Deal on Fentanyl, is funded by Snap and YouTube and looks to educate young Americans on the dangers of fentanyl and the likelihood of it being in counterfeit prescription pills and illicit drugs.
Developed pro bono by creative agency JOAN and produced by JOAN Studios, the youth-oriented work aims to help young Americans understand the deadly reality of fentanyl-laced drugs, working with unexpected yet highly qualified sources to educate them on these fake drugs: former drug dealers. Shatterproof, a national non-profit dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the U.S., served as an issue advisor to the campaign production – in conjunction with Second Chance Studios and JOAN who worked hand-in-hand with these former drug dealers to develop classroom-style lessons that offer hands-on learning opportunities to educate young people on the dangers of fentanyl. The content was captured at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, Massachusetts, an area especially affected by the crisis. Taking over the school for the day, former drug dealers stepped in as teachers – or “substitute dealers” – to educate students about the fentanyl crisis through the lens of their everyday class subjects. The pilot effort was captured by a documentary team, and the lessons will be edited into snackable content custom-tailored for social, digital and linear media. The lessons and resources for youth to learn about the dangers of fentanyl, how to reduce their risks, ways to help a friend, and other life-saving tools will also be available at RealDealOnFentanyl.com, the campaign website developed by Viget and Good Works, Inc. Additionally, as part of this national youth fentanyl awareness campaign, Snap will launch a series of new Augmented Reality lenses, filters, stickers and content that amplify the campaign’s messaging across its platform and SXM Media’s Studio Resonate has developed a series of audio PSAs to run in targeted donated media across their platforms and additional publishers. This multi-channel effort is designed to reach young adults across the country, getting them the facts on fentanyl through an interactive yet unconventional program in hopes that intercepting them during this impressionable time will potentially save their lives.