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Super Bowl Spot

A powerful new ad — that premiered during Super Bowl XLIX on KSDK-TV NewsChannel 5 in the St. Louis area — will help raise public awareness of the local heroin epidemic that has stolen the lives of thousands of young people and shattered thousands of families.

The problem has become so serious that NCADA bought time during the local Super Bowl broadcast to air the spot, which dramatizes the effects of the epidemic. Opiate dependencies often begin when young people misuse prescription painkillers, and then shift to heroin as a cheaper alternative. The results are often catastrophic.

NCADA believes that this is an issue that requires everyone’s attention. In the St. Louis area, nearly 2,300 people have died during the last eight years. To keep more kids from dying, nothing is more crucial than open communication between parents and their children and several medical, social, and political changes, or kids will continue to die.

We acknowledge that this spot may upset some people, especially those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, and we apologize for any further grief seeing this video may cause. Hearing and seeing the grief of people who have lost someone to this devastating problem is what drives us in the work we do, without a real sea change, our young people will continue to die.

In the last few years we have led dozens of community town halls, appeared at countless health fairs, engaged in “guerilla marketing” campaigns, raised money through fundraisers, created a heroin-specific website, and delivered literally hundreds of presentations to schools, civic groups, medical professionals, and anyone who will listen. We have been doing our best, but our best has not been good enough. Young people have continued to die. The heroin/opiate problem has outpaced our best efforts to curtail it.

We felt strongly that our community needed something else in order to wake up and take action. We felt strongly that conventional messaging was clearly inadequate. We wanted to get in people’s faces, grab them by the lapels and say,  PAY ATTENTION.

We know that the most unsettling and troubling part of the commercial is the juxtaposition of the upbeat music with the horrifying images. The stark contrast in tone is an intentional choice that reflects the contrasts of these real-life situations.

The terrible truth is that some young people see the use of prescription opiates as a kind of lark, something fun and relatively risk-free. That perception is entirely disconnected from the reality: that experimenting with highly addictive opiate painkillers, which are almost chemically identical to heroin, all too often ends in heart-breaking tragedy. The “happy sounding” music also makes it possible for the average viewer to watch what’s happening while the lyrics explain the grim details. Without the music, most people turn away; but the song, juxtaposed with the horrifying images, makes it possible to watch this tragedy unfold. We do not want people to turn away from this problem. Our community has been turning away for far too long.

In using the tools of drama to convey this crucial truth in a 60-second spot, we created a parallel disconnection between the visual story we see on screen and the musical story we hear. It is disturbing. It is jarring. It is painful to watch. And we must pay attention to it.

NCADA developed the ad concept with St. Louis creative executive Mark Schupp, president of Schupp Consulting, which produced the spot. Scott Ferguson, one of the region’s premier directors, brought the concept to the screen.

Find more information about NCADA’s work on the heroin epidemic and other substance abuse issues on ncada-stl.org and curiosityandheroin.com.

Categories: Commentary, News

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