NHTSA Asks Drivers Not To Drive While High

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching new creative that aims to get marijuana users to think twice before getting behind the wheel and driving while high. 

Independent creative agency Madwell teamed up with The Ad Council for the work. It is part of NHTSA and The Ad Council’s Drug-Impaired Driving Prevention campaign, which launched in spring 2019.

The campaign is slated to include TV and digital video, radio, OOH, digital banner, and print creative. TV and online video will debut this month, with other media types to follow in the second quarter. The creative will be distributed nationally via The Ad Council’s donated media model. 

Research shows that young men do not believe consuming marijuana has an effect on their driving, says Amber Hahn, Madwell’s senior vice present, head of integrated strategy.



“Our strategy focused on solving a timeless paradox,” Hahn says in a release.“We know young men are resistant to messages from enforcers and experts, particularly around topics like marijuana use. The best way to begin to change attitudes and behavior on this issue is to frame it up through the lens of their personal experience, as if it was coming from a peer.”

In a 15-second spot titled “I’m in an Ad,” a young man in a smoky house party breaks character (and the fourth wall) to remind the audience not to drive if they’re high. As the lights go up, the smoke-filled room is revealed to actually be a studio set.

In the 30-second “Not Camping Day,” four friends smoke marijuana while packing for a camping trip, but realize they can't leave because everyone is high. They make the best of the situation by camping on the front lawn instead. 

Each ad ends with the tagline: “If you feel different, you drive different," and a reminder that driving while high is illegal everywhere, including in states where marijuana consumption is legal.  

Creative aims to handle the topic sensitively, considering the history of how scare tactics have been used unsuccessfully to address drug use in America.

“We didn't want to villainize the act of consuming marijuana or people who choose to do it,” said C.J. Thomas, Madwell’s associate creative director. “We just wanted to show people having fun and enjoying themselves, while also making the right decision not to drive when they’re high.” 

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