In developing a plan for attacking the growing opioid crisis, Schifino Lee has provided a brief Public Awareness & Education case study that summarizes our efforts with drug abuse, in this instance – Meth. We have outlined the process and implementation of the ZEROMETH campaign in Alabama, as the framework for a comprehensive U.S. effort on the national and state level.
With this brief, we hope to express our understanding, experience and commitment to drug abuse campaigns that lead to groundbreaking awareness levels, creating avenues of understanding, assistance and recovery. Generating a high degree of public awareness through unique messaging, that encourages inclusiveness for all citizens, is the objective and driving force to creating the proper national dialogue for this epidemic.
Five years ago, Meth was considered the #1 drug enforcement problem in Alabama and was responsible for more health-related issues than all other drugs combined.
ZEROMETH was a Public Health Campaign that disseminated information to our young people (16-24 year olds) in an attempt to prevent first time usage. Relevancy, realism, and connectivity drove our messaging process. Peer-to-peer advocacy and the momentum gained through media messaging and local support lead to state-wide awareness and acceptance of our message. Through this campaign, 93% of Alabamians were reached & recalled our program.
Funded by a grant from Department of Justice (DOJ) with the assistance of Senator Richard Shelby, allocated dollars were secured for 3 consecutive years for the Alabama Office of Prosecution (OPS) and the Alabama District Attorneys Association to produce a public awareness campaign to combat the destructive force of meth in Alabama. Governor Bob Riley was a driving force who not only contributed financially to the campaign, but also provided the credibility of his state’s endorsement.
Working with all 42 DA’s statewide, law enforcement, and local & state agencies (Mental Health, Department of Corrections, each Alabama City & County School Board, as examples), we conducted first-hand research in each county and gathered information that lead us to formulate a targeted communications plan that was implemented through traditional and non-traditional media vehicles.
We created, produced and executed complete media campaigns with the purpose of educating, identifying and treating meth abuse & addiction.
The campaigns included:
Reached 92% of Alabama households
Meth lab seizures increased by 300%
Campaign won multiple awards; one of the top PSA in the US.
The ZEROMETH anti-brand (influencing people not to do something, rather than trying to sell them something) was created with a unique message, based on documented real life circumstances, which set the tone for our campaign. In fact, after experiencing situations first hand with our team on “live” drug raids, Governor Riley actually pushed the Agency for more realism. These are frightening images, as you will see.
Specific to this point, the ZEROMETH campaign, with a message rooted in horrific truths and deadly consequences, made an immediate impact that drew the attention of everyone in the state and beyond. Social media and Google page counts grew exponentially with each passing day. The elements of the campaign (tv, outdoor, print, website, etc.) were shared and discussed from day one. Positive brand equity (public thought & attitude) in ZEROMETH gained momentum and continued as the campaign was refreshed each year with new creative elements. The campaign became as relevant to the public, as what it for stood for. The marketing tactics were as attention getting as the problem, and at this point we knew we had everyone’s attention.
ZEROMETH was the first step in creating an open statewide dialog about the dangers of meth. The results: awareness of the problem, exposure to the effects, and the creation of a network for help that reached 93% of the state. The campaign won multiple national awards and was the most effective drug prevention program in state history. This was measured not only in media stats (reach & frequency), but in website/social media traffic, community involvement, law enforcement arrest figures and meth lab seizures.
There is no comprehensive Awareness Program that educates the general public, state agencies and officials, doctors, pharmacies and manufacturers with one all-inclusive and consistent message – to reach and influence public perception of the dangers and life threating consequences of opioid abuse.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy works with Federal agencies to expand community-based drug prevention efforts; educate prescribers on the risks involved with opioid prescribing; trained health care providers to identify early signs of an opioid use disorder; expand use of prescription drug monitoring programs; expand access to medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid use disorders; provide recovery supports; and increase access to naloxone to overturn an opioid overdose. However, a large gap still exists between educating the general public of the facts and sending a clear, consistent and integrated message of avoidance.
Unlike Meth, there are multiple issues and target audiences touched by this epidemic. Demographic breakdowns will require multiple messaging tactics (within the same brand theme), as each audience has slightly different circumstances surrounding their abuse.
We can provide a roadmap from the “top down” and the “bottom up” commencing with local discussions (we did this with the DA’s in Alabama) underlying testimonials of statistics, around the U.S. that will lead us to create the proper and most relevant messaging for a campaign. Allowing us to extend our reach into communities, professional organizations and the private sector. Much like the Pink/Breast Cancer Awareness campaign and the NFL, our attainable goal would be to expose our message and apply our resources to reach all effected and responsible parties.
As facts and figures continue to be randomly disseminated to the public, and the alarming calls for help continue, a comprehensive strategy rooted in experienced successful planning & implementation should be considered. Partnering with a firm that utilizes research, data translation, strategic planning, creative concepting, production operations, and media & PR relationships, will drive the probability of successfully meeting our objectives.
Much like the drug issues facing our nation today, a unifying voice, with an understanding of the problem and a documented road map for success, is an absolute necessity to curbing the abuse, reversing the trends and creating a sustainable recovery.
vp/director of Client Services