Among the much-anticipated Super Bowl commercials airing Sunday will be an anti-heroin ad created by a St. Louis area non-profit and a local ad agency.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse–St. Louis Area created the ad with the help of Schupp Consulting and local director Scott Ferguson to bring attention the region's growing heroin problem.
"I have been meeting with parents for the last four-plus years who have lost their kid, and it gets to me every time," said associate executive director Dan Duncan. "This spot is a real illustration of the stories I’ve heard over and over and over again."
Duncan said more than 2,300 people in the St. Louis region, including many high-schoolers, have died from heroin overdoses in the last seven years.
To turn awareness "up a notch," Duncan said the ad urges parents to pay attention and not assume their child is immune from the area's “epidemic of prescription painkiller and heroin use among young people.”
“People get in their own little cocoon and feel safe that. 'Oh, this isn’t happening in my neighborhood, my municipality because I live in' fill-in-the-blank. When, no, it doesn’t really matter where you live in the greater St. Louis area. We’re seeing it in just about every high school," he said.
The ad tells the story of a young man's overdose. The stark images show a mother discovering her young son overdosed on his bed, while the song playing underneath tells of his path from abusing prescription painkillers to overdosing on heroin.
While the song's lyrics are dark, the music itself seems almost light-hearted. Duncan said the incongruousness was purposeful.
"A lot of young people see the use of prescription opiates as fun or relatively risk free, and that perception is entirely disconnected from reality.
The terrible truth is a lot of young people see the use of prescription opiates as kind of a lark and sort of fun or relatively risk-free, and that perception is entirely disconnected from reality," he said. "Experimenting with highly addictive opiate painkillers, which are chemically almost identical to heroin, too often ends up as heartbreaking tragedy."
Duncan said the ad's "sobering message" might be a "buzzkill" during Super Bowl celebrations, but he said he hopes it gets people talking.
"I think we’re still stuck in an old mindset of, 'You did it to yourself, it’s your own damn fault,'" he said. "That’s not going to cut it, that’s not the right response to a public health issue like this. We’re trying to generate more reactions to what we’re experiencing as a community."
While Duncan said he wants the ad to foster discussion, he also hopes it draws interest from other organizations and local companies who want to get involved in addressing the region's heroin problem. The local air time bought for the ad was funded through a grant from an anonymous local company. Duncan said he hopes more donations follow the ad's airing to possibly fund a wider anti-heroin media campaign.
Duncan said the commercial will air locally during the latter part of the half-time show.
You can watch the ad below: