MWB Doesn’t Strong-Arm Miss. Teens

ATLANTA Maris, West & Baker recently launched a campaign for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi that seeks to “free” the state’s teens from drug and alcohol use, the agency said.

The Jackson, Miss., shop’s campaign for the local client includes television and radio ads targeting youth in grades 7-12. MWB said that the goal of the work is to encourage and empower Mississippi teens to “achieve their goals and reach their full potential absent the need for alcohol, drugs and tobacco.”

“Tobacco is a proven gateway to other unhealthy behaviors,” said Sharon Garrison, public relations manager for the partnership. “It stands to reason that we would take the lead in developing a positive way of life that addresses these behaviors for Mississippi teens.”

MWB’s four TV spots are humorous, yet serious, as the scenarios depict how alcohol and drug use can adversely affect a teen’s ability to participate in daily activities. In “Self-Defense” and “Spitwad,” two teens—a girl and a boy, respectively—show that if they refrain from using drugs, they are better able to handle potential attacks, whether they come from a stranger, in the first spot, or from an older brother, in the second.

In “Support Group,” teens with previous substance abuse problems are in a counseling session. Just as they are going through introductions, a new person joins the group. A teen boy is brought in via wheelchair as a narrator explains he is a “relapse, meth overdose.”

“Final Checkpoint” takes a lighter view on the subject. A teen who’s pulled over at a sobriety stop shows that he not only is sober, but is able to dance and jump from traffic cone to traffice cone and complete handstands on the police car. The ad, like the other spots, ends with a voiceover: “Want to keep your license? Be beer, liquor, alcohol, drunk, DUI, prison, free.”

Eric Hughes, creative director at MWB, said that grabbing teenagers’ attention has always been a challenge. The shop worked to develop creative consistent with the partnership’s previous campaigns, employing equal parts comedy and in-your-face delivery to capture the young audience’s attention, he said.

“We believe, where appropriate and when your message centers around high-stakes social issues, serious messages need to be framed in a more comedic context to avoid teens feeling they’re being strong-armed into embracing a movement,” Hughes added.

The work is currently airing on Mississippi radio and TV stations, according to MWB. Campaign spending was not disclosed.