Mother uses humour for £3m COI drug awareness initiative

Mother has created a human and approachable character, Frank, to head a £3 million national Government campaign aimed at raising awareness of drug use among teenagers.

The work is the first to break from the agency since it coupled with PHD to win the brief from the Home Office in October last year.

The campaign, through COI Communications, targets parents and carers as well as young people. Comprising eight television executions and radio activity, it will run for three years and will be supported by a website,, and a helpline number that will aim to boost discussions and give accurate information on drugs and their use.

Until now the Government has largely relied on shock tactics and hard-hitting images for its campaigns warning about the dangers of drug use.

But with the introduction of Frank, Mother is looking to inject an element of humour, and position Frank as a confidante for people with queries about drugs usage.

Many of the campaign's executions aim to articulate the statistic that one in three people have experimented with drugs at some point in their life. One spot shows three swimmers on a podium, one of whom has his swimming trunks around his knees. A voicover says: "As many as one in three people have taken drugs, that's why we've got Frank."

In another execution, a son calls the police after his mother tries to talk to him about drugs. The voiceover offers: "Drugs are illegal. Talking about them isn't, so talk to Frank."

The two bursts of television activity will comprise shared viewing aimed at both parents and children. The shared viewing schedule includes Emmerdale, Crossroads and You've Been Framed, while youth programmes targeted include Ri:se, Big Brother and Hollyoaks.

Mother's Jim Thornton said: "Drugs marketing is very clever and all drugs seem to be reduced to some human name to make them sound friendly, so there was a sense that we needed to be part of that. In the end we liked the idea of creating an imaginary character people would feel comfortable about phoning."

Mother and PHD paired up to defeat the two-year incumbent, St Luke's, last October. St Luke's had coupled with Manning Gottlieb OMD, and other pitching agencies were Fallon with MediaVest, and Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners with Naked Communications. The win was Mother's first since gaining a place on the COI roster the previous September.

The new campaign was written by Caroline Pay and art directed by Kim Gehrig. Media planning and buying is through PHD.

The Government first launched its national drugs strategy in 1998. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction claims Britain currently has the highest level of drug use in Europe.

According to recent surveys, there are more than 40,000 registered heroin users in the UK, while more than one-third of 15-year-olds claim to have taken illegal drugs in the past year.

The campaign hopes to reach those who are already regular users, but also teenagers who are thinking about experimenting with illegal drugs for the first time.