As marketers, we spend much of our time trying to make products cool. In this case, our client Partnership for a Drug Free Singapore came to us with a challenge to do exactly the opposite.

In the past, Heroin was the key drug threat for Singapore, but recent statistics show that Singapore has a new drug problem – synthetic drugs, better known on the streets as ‘Designer Drugs’.

The Issue

With a new drug comes new users: young Chinese from affluent families. The drugs of choice are the synthetic drugs Ketamine, Ecstasy and Methamphetamine. Of great concern is the fact that the use of these recreational drugs is considered acceptable behaviour amongst this target group. In fact, both the cost and the perceived health risks are seen as relatively low.

The Insight

We took to the streets to talk directly to our audience and their families. We discovered that using recreational drugs was not just about rebellion, personal expression or escapism. It was in fact more about a desire for acceptance in an environment where low self-esteem and pressure are the norm. One of the greatest fears amongst this group is doing anything that could be seen as uncool.

The Challenge

Our task was to continue to foster a society of zero tolerance for drug abuse. Our challenge was to find a way to talk the young out of doing something that was perceived to be relatively cool.

The Idea

Our approach was simple: make drugs uncool by demonstrating how they make the user uncool.

‘Drugs Make You Look Stupid’ is the umbrella idea for the campaign. The strategy was to release 3 campaigns, each one taking on a different drug. The first campaign was for Ketamine. The campaign shows the effects of Ketamine on the body and most importantly, the image of the individual. The tagline is “Ketamine won’t kill you but you’ll wish it did”.

The message needed to reach both the Chinese youth and their families. Budget was based on a small donation from Singapore Pools, a large amount of our industry’s talented pro bono time and the generosity of the key media players.

Posters lined Orchard Road showing the physical effects of Ketamine. Three TV ads were created and print was used in a unique way. For the street magazines, we re-created social party pages and fashion pages, slotting in our Ketamine-affected characters. The TV, Outdoor and Print directed the audience to a specially designed website containing information on the drug and its effects.

We also created Singapore’s first mobile phone game, using Para Para, and a vast array of ambient work around Singapore.

The Results

We conducted 50 post-campaign street interviews. There is no doubt the message was clearly received. Many said they found the image of drug abuse ‘offensive and unsightly’. Word of mouth was key and both the ST and The New Paper covered the campaign on several days. The banner campaign got a total of 3.4 million impressions and click-through rate of 1.56% (anything over 1% is considered high these days).