If you’re watching the Super Bowl in St. Louis this Sunday, you’ll probably see another anti-heroin ad. The St. Louis chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has purchased local ad space during the big game for the second year in a row.
Compared to last year’s upbeat ukulele music, the music for this year’s Super Bowl ad is a bit less jarring. But the tale it tells is just as stark: a teenage cheerleader tries prescription painkillers at a party and loses everything she cares about as heroin takes over her life.
“Our aim last year was to get people to start talking about heroin because even though 400 people had died (in the region) the year before, it really wasn’t top of mind,” NCADA-St. Louis executive director Howard Weissman said. “Our attitude then was we’re going to do whatever it takes to shake the community by its lapels and get it talking about heroin.”
Now that the St. Louis region—and the news headlines—have picked up on the heroin problem, Weissman said the second ad is intended to get people thinking beyond statistics to the drug’s human toll.
“We felt like it was important to elevate the conversation. And we thought that this would get people out of their heads and just talking about statistics and the size and scope of the problem and start helping people to understand what this really means to individuals. How this has such catastrophic effects on human being’s lives,” Weissman said. "Statistics don’t incite change. But sometimes individual stories do.”
Last year’s ad featured a mom finding her son after he’s overdosed on heroin, and was targeted at the general community. But Weissman said this year’s message is intended for teenagers.
“We’re hoping teens understand on a deep, visceral level exactly what it says in the spot, which is if you pick up heroin you’ll lose everything that’s valuable to you,” Weissman said.
Weissman said NCADA-St. Louis chose a white suburban teenager as the focus of the ad because "the majority of heroin users and abusers are white (and) are in suburban and rural communities.”
The 60-second ad will air Sunday just after halftime. An anonymous corporate donor purchased the Super Bowl air time for NCADA-St. Louis both years.
According to Weissman, local ad time during this year’s Super Bowl has a going rate of $60,000 per 30 seconds, but KMOV gave NCADA-St. Louis a discount.
The ad directs the audience to a website where people can go to get help and get more information. NCADA-St. Louis is also conducting a social media campaign on Instagram where people can share their personal stories.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.