Ad Council looks to break through about fentanyl with Drop the F*Bomb campaign

Overdose deaths in 2021 were up 15% over the year before, with the prevalence of fentanyl largely to blame.

NEW YORK: The Ad Council has launched an edgy campaign to encourage parents to discuss the dangers of fentanyl with their children.

The campaign, Drop the F*Bomb, plays on the word used instead of an expletive and features videos that open with a beep used during broadcasts to mask words.

“The campaign is provocative by design,” Michelle Hillman, chief campaign development officer at the Ad Council, said via email. “Parents are busy, and we knew it was critical to get their attention quickly to help them understand the importance of the issue. Using the f-word with kids may be taboo, but talking to them about the facts, dangers and prevalence of fentanyl should not be.”

The nonprofit partnered with Meta for the campaign. The Ad Council declined to share the budget.

Overdose deaths in the United States have increased significantly in recent years. In 2021, there were more than 107,000, an increase of almost 15% from 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A year earlier, the number increased by 30%. 

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, accounted for two-thirds of the overdose deaths in 2021. Among adolescents in 2021, there were more than 1,100 overdose deaths — most of them due to fentanyl — more than double the number in 2019, according to an analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We have learned a lot over the years on how to stand up memorable and effective communications efforts around many issues, including substance use,” Hillman wrote. “Among the learnings gathered is the need for more nuanced and compassionate messaging paired with user-friendly resources that aid individuals when they most need help. The Ad Council’s new initiatives to address the overdose crisis lead with empathy and education, ultimately helping to save lives.”

Meta’s creative staff spearheaded strategy and development of the campaign, Hillman stated. That included videos featuring adults encouraging parents to have discussions about fentanyl, polls, an augmented reality filter and content hubs on Facebook and Instagram.

The videos open with a beep and a closeup of an adult, whose mouth is covered by a pixelated censor bar. The subject then pushes the bar to the side and says, “You heard me. Fentanyl.”

In one video, a woman, “Jodie,” says, “Drug dealers are using this synthetic opioid to make pills that look like prescriptions but are total fakes, putting your kids at risk of overdose if they are taking pills that aren’t prescribed by a doctor. Learn the facts and start a lifesaving conversation with your kids.”

The campaign website,, contains facts about fentanyl, such as that it can be found in cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and MDMA. It also provides instructions on how to discuss fentanyl with your children.

“Check in with your child about their mental health on a regular basis,” the website recommends. “Encourage them to let you know if they are struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or pain, so you can help.”

The site also provides information on how to detect an overdose and on how to use naloxone, a Food and Drug Administration-approved medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

To measure the effectiveness of the campaign, the Ad Council will conduct a tracking survey that aims to measure changes in parents’ reported knowledge of the topic, among other metrics, Hillman stated.

The organization will also measure engagement on the Meta platforms and in other digital spaces.

“We know parents and their children are busy, and this campaign takes an honest, direct and informative approach to arm parents with the tools they need to engage their children around the issue,” Hillman stated. 

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