Truth Initiative, Ad Council and US government join forces on national effort to fight opioids

Opioid addiction is one of the biggest growing problems in the US, and efforts to curb opioid abuse haven’t solved the problem.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Truth Initiative and the Ad Council are hoping to solve that with a sweeping new campaign focused on preventing and reducing misuse of opioids among America’s youth.

Called 'The Truth About Opioids,' the multi-channel campaign is a bold step, designed to help young people understand the facts about opioids, the risk of addiction and provide necessary information and resources.

Created by Haymaker and Truth Initiative, the Truth-branded spots tell true stories of young adults and the lengths to which they’ve gone in order to get new opioid prescriptions, and while they’re quite painful to watch, they make a lasting impression on the addictive nature of these potentially deadly drugs.

Chris and Kyle take similar paths to their addictions. They both got hooked young – Kyle tried Oxycontin at some parties, while Chris found pills at his mother’s house. Their stories are told as we see them taking drastic action – breaking their own hands and arms so they can get more pills. Amy is seen driving in her film, telling in voice over how she was given Vicodin after a knee surgery. She ends up driving her car into a dumpster to get injured so she can get more pills. Joe broke his own back to get more pills.

All say they didn’t know how addictive the pills were.

That’s where the stats from the Truth Initiative come in from The Truth About Opioids' website. Eric Asche, chief marketing officer for Truth said their organization – which has been around for two decades telling the perils of smoking to teens in highly effective campaigns – has been working on ‘The Truth About Opioids’ close to a year. They did qualitative and quantitative research along with social listening to teens to come up with a plan, as well as sourcing facts from places like the CDC to come up with startling facts like “dependence on prescription opioids can happen after just five days” and “more than 17,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2016.”

Asche said that Truth wants to be “where the knowledge gap exists” to get young people – who he says are the most vulnerable – to make informed decisions. “We talked with thousands of youth and young adults…we developed platforms to put in front of consumers before cameras even started rolling. It’s been a very strategic and deliberate process,” he said.

To bring gravity to the creative, Truth and Haymaker utilized what Asche called the "three most powerful words someone can communicate: ‘a true story.’ These are real stories, real people, this actually happened. Pulling the curtain back to show what happens when they become addicted is powerful,” he said, adding that they have to talk to the audience in a way that does justice both to the serious nature of the subject with also the individuals who become addicted. He also said that another guiding principal is not to tell the audience how to think or behave, similar to Truth’s strategy on tobacco.

“We are also competing for attention out in the universe. We have to package the conversation so it breaks through the clutter,” he added, saying that the multiple partners help get the word out in their own way through social and media channels.

Working with the government helps broaden the reach of the campaign, and also adds urgency and gravity to the movement.

"America is facing an opioid crisis that knows no bounds and no community is immune. The Office of National Drug Control Policy is pleased to unveil The Truth About Opioids Campaign with our partners at the Truth Initiative and the Ad Council. The launch of this public education campaign is designed to close the knowledge gap about the risks of opioids and is one more vital step towards saving our loved ones from the opioid crisis" said deputy director Jim Carroll, ONDCP. “The magnitude of this epidemic is staggering, and we must keep working to implement effective solutions and measures to counter the threat that opioid misuse and abuse represent to the United States.”

Bringing all the partners together, on the public and private sector side, makes sure that each aspect of the campaign is covered, from creative to knowledge, advocacy and media.

“The Ad Council has brought together an extraordinary coalition of media and tech partners who reach and engage millions of young people every day. Because of these partners, we can target ‘The Truth About Opioids’ campaign to reach young people with the right messages in the right place at the right time,” said Lisa Sherman, president and chief executive officer of the Ad Council.

Both Asche and Sherman, said that this wave of the knowledge campaign is just the first step into combating these addictions.

“When the Ad Council takes on an issue we’re in it for the long haul…helping to drive that change. We’re not going to get it solved overnight. This is the first phase of creative work for the campaign, but it’s a multifaceted issue. Prevention is just one lane and one strategy,” said Sherman.

“It’s the first step (of a) very complex epidemic. The issue requires engaging in a very diverse conversation. The first wave of creative is first chapter. We need to have a prolonged conversation with the audience to change knowledge and beliefs,” added Asche.

Per the Ad Council’s model, the campaign will be supported in donated media and already has large scale commitments from top digital, social and linear platforms including Amazon, Facebook, Google and YouTube, NBCUniversal, Turner and Vice, ensuring that the work is reaching its target of young adults.

See all the spots by clicking the Creative Works box below.

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