Drugfree.org, DDB SF Attempt to ‘Rise Above’ the Influence

By Bob Marshall 

From DDB’s San Francisco office come three new TV spots for The Partnership @ Drugfree.org’s long-running “Above the Influence” campaign.

Before we dive into these, I’d like to draw your attention to the recent, horrifying anti-meth PSAs we saw from Darren Aronofsky. On a surface level, the PSAs couldn’t look more different, with Aronofsky employing heavy fear tactics and DDB SF attempting to communicate with teenagers using messaging that hinges on positive reinforcement. However, what the two series of PSAs have in common is the fact that each depicts an unrealistic portrayal of drug use. In Aronofsky’s PSAs, a single taste of meth leads to a suicide attempt, and in the above spot, a lack of drinking and smoking weed leads to a teen leaping to school on rooftops a la Spider-Man. Sure, it’s a “visual metaphor,” but as a teen, I viewed this sort of advertising as condescending. After all, it doesn’t take a pharmaceutical degree to know that it’s actually the kids smoking weed that are, in a sense, “flying.”


Here’s the thing, teenagers who read AgencySpy (I know you’re out there): Trying a drug once is not going to kill you, nor will it make you immediately addicted to said drug. However, do too much of a drug, ANY drug, and it will have a substantial negative impact on your life. From a teen’s perspective, though, most things in the world are black and white. To them, drugs have to be either good or bad, so the logical marketing strategy is to portray them as evil vices that will lead to a teen’s untimely demise. We’ve come a long way from “This is Your Brain on Drugs,” but is there a honest, realistic way to depict drug use so teens can make an informed decision their own? So, dear commenters, do we do so through positive reinforcement, fear, or a combination of the two?

Two more spots from DDB SF (including one that employs the “fear factor”) and credits for the one above after the jump.

“Rise Above” credits:
Chief Creative Officer: Lisa Bennett
Director of Production: Frank Brooks
Creative Director: Lisa Bennett
Art Director: Mike Andrews
Copywriter: Daniel Mabe
Agency Senior Producer: Bryan Holt
Account Director: Sarah Moore
Production Company: Furlined
Director: Nez
Exec. Producer: Jason Botkin
Editorial: Final Cut/LA
Editor: Logan Hefflefinger
VFX/Online: Social VFX
VFX Supervisor: Verdi Sevenhuysen
Music/Sound Design: Massive Music
Audio Mixing: Joaby Deal/One Union