Drug Free Kids sends a well-timed personal message

A suite of tech partners adds some punch to a PSA with automated, customized texts to teens.

Teens are used to seeing PSAs telling them about the dangers of getting behind the wheel while drunk or high, so Drug Free Kids Canada used a bit of tech and personalization to make its message stick – and give parents a new tool to start a conversation with their kids.

“The Call That Comes After” appears at first glance to be the typical kind of PSA one would expect from Drug Free Kids. A group of teens are hanging out and getting high, and one of them – who wasn’t smoking – still decides to get into a car driven by a friend under the influence. On the road, they get into a sudden, violent accident. The video ends with a close-up shot of the girl’s cracked phone, which is receiving frantic messages from her mother, wondering where she is.

Then things get interesting. As this happens in the video – which is customized to display the name of a parent as it is saved in the viewer’s phone – the viewer will receive the same messages sent to their own phone, timed to arrive at the same point they arrive in the video.

By going to a “The Call That Comes After” website, parents can enter their child’s name, phone number and email address. Their child’s progress in the video is tracked and, as they watch it, the urgent message is sent as if it came from the parent as soon as the crash happens in the video.

This is done through a combination of platforms agency FCB/SIX has brought together, including IBM’s Marketing Cloud and Oracle Marketing Cloud for automation and data capturing, YouTube, an (unnamed) third party video rendering engine to create the video on-demand and vendor integration with traditional SMS to send the text.

Marc Paris, executive director of Drug Free Kids Canada, says a major goal of the campaign was to give parents a simple and easy tool to talk to their kids about the dangers of driving while high. That has been an ongoing goal in many of its past PSAs, but the organization’s own research show it remains an ongoing issue for some parents, with 40% of the parents who have spoken with their kids saying the conversation lasts less than a few minutes.

“That tells us the parents aren’t really having a conversation,” Paris says. “It’s more of a monologue and a lecture, rather than having a dialogue, and we sense a lot of resistance in turning that into a dialogue. This gives parents a simple and easy tool to approach having that conversation in a different and impactful way, with the push of a button.”

“Even if parents want to have this conversation, they don’t know how,” adds Vicki Waschkowski, VP and managing director at FCB/SIX. “They need a prompt to get it started. If we engage kids where they already are in a cool way, it gets their attention, and it opens up the conversation about how they actually managed to send that message. ‘Wow Mom, how did you do that’ is a different way for parents to start that conversation without just launching into ‘don’t get high and drive’ again.”

Aside from the typical target of parents, Paris says this is the first time a Drug Free Kids campaign has attempted to reach teens as well. Despite the number of fatalities attributed to driving while high, 32% of teens believe it isn’t as dangerous as driving drunk, with one in four high school seniors saying they have been a passenger in a car driven by someone who was high.

“From what we’ve seen in the focus groups and the reaction to the campaign so far, it is hitting the mark really well,” Paris says. “The response you see at the end of the video is really what’s being fed back to us. The technology is creating a wow moment for the kids, and using tech they’ve never seen or experienced before makes the experience and the message far more memorable.”

“The way we look at things is that all communications can be one-to-one,” says Jacob Ciesielski, VP and head of data and technology at FCB/SIX, echoing the agency’s stated philosophy. “Combining all this tech is when you get that one-on-one connection, which is already impactful. But if you see a message from a brand, it’ll probably get ignored. So we felt that if we could leverage tech to connect all the dots and customize the experience for the kids and whatever platform they watch on, it takes the message even further.”

Paris says that, due to the positive response the campaign has seen so far on social, the campaign will be extended into traditional media, with a “prequel” video showing the girl from the video avoiding a conversation with her mom before heading to hang out with her friends, which then drives to the site. The media planning is being handled internally.