Ad Council PSA Takes On Fentanyl Crisis, With YouTube, Snap And Former Drug Dealers

The Ad Council is not a stranger to taking on societal issues such as drunk driving and wildfire prevention. Now the organization is collaborating with YouTube, Snap and others to support public awareness about the risks of fentanyl.

“We’re trying to drive kids to go to the so that they can learn the facts about fentanyl, life-saving tips on how to recognize an overdose as well as about naloxone so they can understand the lessons in the hopes of saving kids’ lives,” states Michelle Hillman, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council.

The multichannel campaign work was developed pro bono by JOAN, with assistance from Second Chance Studios and Shatterproof and is being launched during Advertising Week.

The latest multichannel campaign -- titled Real Deal on Fentanyl -- involves Snap, YouTube and pro-bono work by creative agency JOAN.

It also included assistance from Second Chance Studios and Shatterproof. The campaign was launched Tuesday during Advertising Week New York.

The educational public service announcement centers on classroom-style lessons about the dangers of fentanyl, delivered by former drug dealers.

The two-minute ad that opens with the words “fentanyl is killing us” and “why aren’t we learning about it” takes place at a high school in Holyoke, Massachusetts, an area hard hit by the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Students in the video are introduced to the hidden risks associated with fentanyl, 50-times stronger than heroin, according to the content that explains it’s being illegally mixed into drugs and made into fake pills.  

The video also introduces substitute teachers called substitute dealers, former drug dealers, to teach kids in a classroom setting about the drug. These lessons in a classroom are taught by former drug dealers about the drug.

“I did 18-and-a-half years in prison for selling drugs,” one woman substitute teacher tells the class in the video. “So, everyone put on your gloves. Please place it under the microscope. Can you see anything different as a pill?”

It’s not possible to see, smell or taste if a drug contains fentanyl, the video explains. Two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal. The dealers also discussed the importance of having naloxone nasal spray available as a lifesaving remedy to counteract the effects of a fentanyl overdose. 

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year found that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths in the U.S., part of a larger trend where deaths have risen 50% in the past two years. In 2020, 76% of drug deaths in people ages 14-23 involved fentanyl.

The Ad Council has addressed opioid addiction and promoted youth fentanyl awareness in recent months, enlisting help from tech partners like Snap, Google and Meta. 

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