Pubdate: Mon, 08 Aug 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Martha C. White


For a generation of commercial-watching adolescents, it was an 
indelible image: an egg, sizzling in a frying pan, representing "your 
brain on drugs." It was a straightforward message, and the ad's final 
line - "Any questions?" - asked as the egg white clouded and cooked, 
was strictly rhetorical.

Three decades later, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (the group 
formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America) is 
bringing the frying pan out of retirement and firing up the stove 
again. But this time questions are the point.

The group hopes it can tap into the nostalgia parents may have for 
the old frying egg ad while also letting them know their children do 
indeed want answers about drugs.

"'Any questions' was the end. Now it's the beginning," said Scott 
Seymour, chief creative officer at BFG Communications, which created 
print and digital banner ads for the new campaign. "The landscape of 
drugs has really gotten a lot more complex, so we took this idea of 
having a succession of questions delivered by kids," he said. The 
group drew on real inquiries from parents to develop the questions 
featured in the ads, which cover topics like prescription drugs and 
marijuana legalization.

Children today feel empowered and entitled to ask questions about 
drugs, and parents are more willing to entertain those questions, 
observers say.

"Because of parenting styles today, parents are engaged with their 
kids in a different way," said Kristi Rowe, chief marketing officer 
at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. "They're really stumped by the 
questions. They don't know how to answer them."

The new ads open with an egg frying in a pan, as in the original, but 
then build on that by showing children asking their questions. 
Parents are then pointed to the partnership's website, which offers 
suggestions for how to answer questions like if and when prescription 
drugs are O.K., how marijuana can be "bad" if it's also legal, and 
whether or not parents tried drugs when they were younger. (The 
partnership calls that one the toughest to address.)

"There's definitely been a shift in parents wanting to answer those 
questions thoughtfully," said Jo Shoesmith, chief creative officer at 
Campbell Ewald, the agency that worked on the new TV spot. "Hence the 
execution where we start off asking those questions."

The campaign includes print and digital advertising, as well as a 
television spot that begins this week, with a voice-over by the 
actress Allison Janney ("The West Wing," "Mom"). Ms. Rowe said all of 
the creative work, print space and airtime were donated.

"It would have cost us well over $1 million, just from the production 
values alone," she said. Getting networks to donate commercial time 
to air a public service announcement is a huge advantage for groups 
like the partnership, but the drawback is that networks have more 
latitude about when they choose to show the ads than they would with 
a paying customer.

Working with an already familiar motif like the fried egg takes some 
of the pressure off the partnership because the ad does not have to 
waste time introducing the organization and its goals to the audience.

"It's one of the most famous P.S.A. campaigns of all time," said Adam 
Duhachek, a professor of marketing at Indiana University, adding that 
nostalgia can be a very effective tool for marketers.

"We see lots of examples of it being done, so I think it's one of the 
tropes advertisers continually rely on," he said. "I think they're 
hoping that the success they had 30 years ago and this powerful 
visual metaphor will still resonate."

Since this new campaign is aimed at parents rather than their 
children, the famous tag line has been tweaked a bit, from "your 
brain on drugs" to "a brain on drugs," and the ads refer parents to 
the partnership's website, a digital resource that didn't exist at 
the time of the initial campaign.

Despite these differences, the egg is what sticks.

"Given that it was the 30th anniversary, we thought it was a perfect 
time to build off the imagery and equity of the fried egg spot," Ms. 
Shoesmith said. "It was a perfect opportunity to reflect the new 
strategy and changing parenting styles."

Allen Rosenshine, executive creative director for the partnership and 
chairman emeritus of ad agency BBDO Worldwide, echoed that thought.

"The entire drug scene has changed so much that strategies we might 
have employed even 10 years ago aren't relatable today," he said. "If 
you go back to the original fried-egg spot, it was a rather 
in-your-face statement that drugs are dangerous."

Bringing back the egg in the frying pan gives parents a familiar 
frame of reference even as it conveys to parents that today's 
conversations about drugs need to be more nuanced, Ms. Shoesmith said.

"We acknowledge where we were, and it's this evolution to reflect the 
conversation parents are having with their kids now," she said.
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