The White House Unveils Partnership With Truth Initiative and Ad Council to Fight Opioid Epidemic

First series of ads aired this morning on The Today Show

“The Truth About Opioids” media, education and multichannel campaign will primarily target Americans aged between 18 and 25. The Truth Initiative
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The Truth Initiative, Ad Council and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) unveiled a collaborative effort this morning, along with its first series of national public awareness ads, to fight the country’s opioid epidemic—an ongoing focus of the Trump administration.

“The Truth About Opioids” media, education and multichannel campaign will primarily target Americans aged between 18 and 25, as last year, 2.5 million in that age range are said to have misused opioids. According to Truth, 115 Americans, on average, die daily of an overdose.

Airing on The Today Show this morning, the campaign distributed its first of four ads that feature harrowing stories from real former opioid addicts. The concept is similar to how Truth approached its anti-smoking ads, which first made waves in the late 1990s and featured former smokers showing the devastating impact tobacco had on their bodies.

In a series of 30-second videos, Amy, Chris and Kyle reveal the drastic and harmful measures they took to get their hands on opioids. The three all said they had no idea how addicting prescription drugs could be—until they tried them.

“The stories you will see in these ads are, sadly, not unique,” ONDCP director Jim Carroll said during a press briefing this morning. “I know a lot of parents who lost kids to opioid abuse, and there’s always a common thread.”

That thread usually begins with the words “I didn’t know,” Carroll continued. Parents didn’t know their kids were addicted, andthose kids didn’t know their opioids could be laced with fentanyl (a cause of most opioid-related overdoses).

The “first phase” of this partnership and campaign, as the group described it, will focus on education.

“Since 2000, the Truth Initiative has prevented over 1 million young people from smoking, and now we’re very proud to fight the opioid epidemic that’s ravaging so many lives,” Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth, said during the press briefing.

Koval told Adweek that during “chapter one” of this campaign, Truth aimed to create ads that were “bold, honest, raw and very personal” to garner mass attention. The team considered more than 150 constructs before landing on the final concept. Given what Truth has accomplished with its antismoking efforts, it felt natural to take up this issue, she said.

Koval added that it “took a long time to create this problem” and will “take a long time” to solve it, emphasizing that Truth will be committed to preventing opioid addiction going forward just as it is with fighting big tobacco.

Ad Council CEO and president Lisa Sherman told Adweek they’re also in it “for the long haul.”

“This is truly a national public health emergency, and we know we have the right team in place to make a difference and move the needle,” Sherman noted.

Created in partnership with agency Haymaker, the ads will be distributed across TV, digital and social channels and will target areas of the country most affected by opioid abuse. To get the message out, the group partnered with Google, Facebook, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting, Amazon, YouTube and Vice, all of which donated media.

“Today is a very exciting day,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, said during the press briefing. She added that over time, she hopes the campaign will “raise awareness, incite action and literally save lives.”

While Conway and Carroll declined to comment on how much government funds would be dedicated to this campaign, they mentioned that, while most of the cost was covered by donations from media partners, the ONDCP financially contributed to the campaign.

Since taking office in 2016, President Donald Trump has made fighting the opioid crisis a primary focus of his agenda, unveiling its most-recent effort, the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse, in March. In December, the White House announced Trump donated $100,000 of his third-quarter salary to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Conway said she has “not heard of a penny of that” $100,000 going toward the campaign announced today.


Creative Agency: Haymaker
Founder, Chief Creative Officer: Jay Kamath
Founder, Chief Strategy Officer: Matt Johnson
Executive Producer: Andrew Tucci
Brand Manager: Vicky Tran
Designer: Kimberly Ong

Production Company: Little Minx
Director/DP: Malik Sayeed
Executive Producer: Rhea Scott
Executive Producer: Helen Hollien

Editorial Company: Arcade
Editor: Paul Martinez
Assistant Editor: Pete Dandrea
Executive Producer: Damian Stevens
Producer: Adam Parker
VFX: Timber
VFX Producer: Jillian Lynes
Designer: Kevin Lau
Colorist: Beau Leon

Sound Design & Original Music: Q Department
Audio Production: Lime Studios
Engineer: Zac Fisher

Media Agency: Assembly

PR Agency: Ketchum

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.