The Ad Council is once again teaming up with prominent technology companies to support its public awareness initiative raising the alarm about the risks of fentanyl.

The latest effort is a campaign titled Real Deal on Fentanyl, which involves Snap, YouTube and work by creative agency JOAN.

The two-minute ad takes place at a high school in Holyoke, Massachusetts, an area that has been hard hit by the ongoing nationwide opioid epidemic. The educational effort centers on classroom-style lessons about the dangers of fentanyl delivered by former drug dealers.

Students are introduced to the hidden risks associated with fentanyl, as the ‘substitute dealers’ note the illicit substance can be mixed into other drugs and have lethal effects on unsuspecting victims. The dealers also discussed the importance of having naloxone nasal spray available as a lifesaving remedy to counteract the effects of a fentanyl overdose. 

The opioid overdose crisis has had catastrophic effects on the U.S. over the past decade, with the issue garnering greater concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year found that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths in the U.S., part of a larger trend where deaths have risen 50% in the past two years. 

The multi-channel campaign work was developed pro bono by JOAN, with assistance from Second Chance Studios and Shatterproof and is being launched during Advertising Week. The Real Deal on Fentanyl also makes its debut amid rising concerns about ‘rainbow fentanyl’ and the potential risks facing young children. 

The Ad Council has been steadfast in addressing opioid addiction and promoting youth fentanyl awareness in recent months, enlisting help from tech partners like Snap, Google and Meta. 

Michelle Hillman, chief campaign development officer at The Ad Council, said reaching young people who consume content through digital media services and are active on social media platforms meant leveraging relationships with Big Tech companies. 

She added that the campaign emphasizes educating young people who may not be fully aware of the dangers associated with fentanyl. Hillman said JOAN explained from a strategic perspective that the campaign had to take an unconventional approach based on authenticity and credibility to be effective.

Hillman said that the aim is to provide the youth with information about the lethal, illicit substance from “unexpected, highly-qualified sources” to break through to them. 

“We’re trying to drive kids to go to the so that they can learn the facts about fentanyl, life-saving tips on how to recognize an overdose as well as about naloxone so they can understand the lessons in the hopes of saving kids’ lives,” she said.