Duncan Channon To Create New Opioid/Fentanyl Educational Campaign For California

San Francisco-based agency Duncan Channon has been named the lead creative agency for a new two-year California opioid/fentanyl overdose education and prevention campaign. 

The remit was assigned by the California Department of Public Health and is funded up to $40 million, according to the agency.  

The campaign comes as fentanyl-related deaths in the state among younger adults are skyrocketing—up nearly four-fold between 2018 and 2020. 



Job one for the agency is to move immediately on media planning and buying to activate existing Center for Disease Control (CDC) education creative while developing new creative that will bow later this year.  

Duncan Channon’s first original work will include culturally relevant creative for Latin, Black/African American and Asian Pacific Islander communities developed with agency partners Acento and APartnership. The public education effort will include TV, radio, OOH, social and digital media and influencer activations, as well as PR by partner agency Berlin Rosen.

 The campaign will target teens and younger adults up to age 39 and will aim to change public perceptions to destigmatize the issue, and normalize new strategies to reduce harm and opioid/fentanyl overdose instances. California saw 224 fentanyl-related deaths among teens ages 15-19 in 2021 as fentanyl is increasingly being found in pills and other party drugs easily accessible online and from peers, the agency said.  

“Before we can engage Californians around how they can help reduce harm from opioids and fentanyl, we have to develop a collective understanding of the problem now and how it affects all of us — teens and young people included,” said Andy Berkenfield, CEO, Duncan Channon. 

The assignment follows a competitive pitch that concluded earlier this year.  

“Our campaign must remove the stigma from this conversation so that Californians have a new understanding of — and receptivity to — harm reduction strategies that can help prevent overdose deaths, including inadvertent fentanyl poisoning,” said Robin Christensen, Chief, Substance and Addiction Prevention Branch at California Department of Public Health. “Any creative and communications approach must meet people where they are at, and reflect a nuanced understanding of their lives and cultural realities.” 

The remit is the latest public health assignment for the agency.  In the past two years it has been tapped for the state’s $40 million COVID vaccine education campaign, as well as a 2023 statewide effort to raise awareness for COVID therapeutics -- particularly among communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus and historically underserved by the medical system. 

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