Will Ferrell plays a smartphone addict in humorous PSA campaign

Will Ferrell is playing his usual funny self in a PSA campaign that ultimately has a serious message: both adults and kids are spending too much time on their smartphones, and the former should try to set a better example for younger generations.

The ads star Ferrell and his family of five at the dinner table, where his kids and wife are happy to enjoy their meals and talk about their days. But Ferrell can’t seem to put his phone down and enjoy the conversation — he’s too busy checking out cat filters and “liking” posts from friends, much to his family’s dismay.

In one of the ads, his daughter attempts to grab his attention by telling him she drew a horse at school, only to have him respond by stating “good job, son.” In another, his family begs him to put his device in the dedicated “phone basket” so he’ll stop swiping and actually listen to what they’re saying, a plan that goes awry when he asks if he can “technically still touch it” once it’s in there.

The spots are for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that’s dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world that's become overrun with media and technology. The campaign is asking parents to take part in its ‘#DeviceFreeDinner’ initiative, which encourages families to put down their phones and tablets during mealtime so they can spend that time chatting face-to-face instead.

Created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the campaign comes on the heels of research recently released by Common Sense Media that found that 42% of children aged zero through eight have their own tablet device, up from less than one percent in 2011. It also found that kids in this age group are now spending 48 minutes per day on mobile devices, up from just five minutes six years ago.

"In today's tech-driven world, where things are moving so quickly, it is really important to step back and take a hard look at what technology kids are using and how they are using it," said James P. Steyer, founder and chief executive of Common Sense Media, in a statement. "Over the last six years, we have seen massive growth in media use and tablet ownership, and we haven't even begun to experience the explosion of new technologies like virtual reality and voice-activated assistants in our homes. If we want to ensure our kids develop well and are successful in life, we have to make sure they get the most out of tech while protecting them from potential risks -- and that means paying close attention to the role media is playing in their lives."

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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