'This Is Your Brain On Drugs' PSA Brought Back For A New Generation

By McCarton Ackerman 08/10/16

The rebooted campaign features print ads, a 30-second radio spot and 30-second television spot, with voiceover work done by Allison Janney.

'This Is Your Brain On Drugs' PSA Brought Back For A New Generation
Photo Partnership For Drug Free/YouTube

Thirty years after the Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched its now iconic frying pan-centric “This is your brain on drugs” ad campaign, it’s being revamped for a new generation.

The New York Times reported that the same organization, now known as the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, is focusing on parents instead of children for Fried Egg 2016. The new TV ad begins with the familiar image of an egg cracking into a sizzling frying pan: "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?" But instead of ending there, as the original PSA did, a child responds, "Yeah, I have questions." “Why is heroin so addictive?” “Weed’s legal, isn’t it?” “Prescription drugs aren’t as bad as street drugs, right?” And finally: “Mom, Dad, did you ever try drugs?”

The multimedia campaign features print and digital ads, a 30-second radio spot and a 30-second television spot, with voiceover work done by actress Allison Janney of Mom and The West Wing. All of the print space and airtime were donated to the Partnership, saving them well over $1 million in production costs alone.

“Given the complexities that surround substance abuse today … kids today have very specific questions they ask of their parents,” said Kristi Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “These topics are all front and center for teens, so we want to ensure that families have a place to turn to get those answers. We know too, that there are families who are past the question and answer stage, and whose kids are struggling with a substance use disorder.”

The organization is also hoping to benefit from the current nostalgia boom of iconic TV shows and movies being tweaked and re-released. Adam Duhachek, a marketing professor at Indiana University, told the Times that the fried egg motif will immediately resonate with most Americans because “it’s one of the most famous PSA campaigns of all time.”

The Partnership is also hoping that the ad campaign will funnel viewers into some of the other services it offers, including a bilingual toll-free helpline, a system of support for parents known as the Parent Support Network, and additional treatment resources at drugfree.org. Based on the support it has received thus far, the organization is optimistic that the re-launch will meet those goals.

“It becomes clear the positive effect this organization has had on generations of people when you produce work for them,” said Joe Godard, Creative Director at Campbell Ewald, the ad agency that worked on the new campaign. “A simple request and there are production companies, actors and directors, all wanting to be part of the program. It’s an honor to be part of a powerful legacy.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.