A PSA.

This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

Remember that ad? Any guess as to when it was done?

Try 1987.

I don’t remember my own ads from 1987. But that PSA for Partnership for a Drug-Free America was and still is part of the American lexicon.

Talk about simplicity. Talk about directness. Talk about staying power.

I’m talking about these things because a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had the privilege of working on ad for Drug-Free America. And before I share my story, you just need to know one thing. It’s no Egg in the Frying Pan.

When it’s a PSA (Public Service Announcement) agencies and production companies make them for free. Air time is donated by the networks. It’s a way of giving back, especially if you’re a stakeholder in the message.

Our creative brief was simple. Encourage parents to talk to their kids about drugs. Keep the conversations simple. Keep them casual. Keep them non-threatening. Most important, keep the lines of communication open as they enter their teen years.

The art director and I were both big stakeholders in this message. We both had kids.

We knew we could never do anything close to the 1987 classic, and besides our message was different. It wasn’t about what drug use does. It was about trying to head drug use off.

My creative partner and I knew there was no TV commercial that could actually keep kids off of drugs. Sadly, not even Egg in the Frying Pan. This kind of messaging was and always will be an awareness play.

But perhaps we could use an everyday family routine to plant a seed. After all, what’s the one thing families do together practically every night? I mean besides argue. Yes, watch TV. Here’s the 30-second spot we put together using only lines of type fading up and down one line at a time.

I’d love to tell you that our idea was a raging success and totally stopped drug use for all time not only in our country but also in our universe. I’d love to tell you that. Instead, I have to report it barely made it on air.

Even though the art director and I didn’t expect people to literally turn off their TVs, we were still telling people to turn off their TV’s

This idea did not sit well with the major networks. They were promoting Must-Watch-TV. We were promoting Turn-Off-TV. They all refused to air our PSA.

However, we did convince one cable network to air it. It didn’t seem to have any adverse effects on their programs or ratings. I think it was Fox.

Why am I telling you all of this? If you have the opportunity to work on a PSA please take it.

True, these days there’s not a lot of stuff on TV that’s worth watching. But a PSA? If you’re passionate abut the message, that’s always worth doing.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

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