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A Different Kind of Danger Starring Danny Trejo and His Number One Fear


LBB speaks with The-Artery about balancing humour with serious subjects and breaking boundaries for Safe.Pharmacy’s ‘Bad Meds’

A Different Kind of Danger Starring Danny Trejo and His Number One Fear

Photo credit: Taili Song Roth

Danny Trejo stars in ‘the fakest movie ever created’ as he dodges fake knives, bombs and threats on a movie set. But this action star is not easily fazed by the apparent danger that surrounds him. What troubles him is far more life-threatening: bad meds.

A consumer awareness campaign from Safe.Pharmacy, ‘Bad Meds’ brings to light the astounding number of dangerous counterfeit medication and drugs being sold online. According to The World Health Organization, more than one million deaths occur annually from counterfeit or substandard medicine and drugs. 

In an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of consuming these fake medications, the spot - created, produced and edited by The-Artery - sees Danny open about his fear of fake drugs, having lost many friends from counterfeit pills. In fact, the spot highlights that 95% of all online pharmacies operate illegally, so to be on the safe side, verify before you buy at Safe.Pharmacy.

To find out how this spot came together and what it was like to work alongside Danny Trejo on this important campaign, LBB speaks with The-Artery’s executive producer and managing director Deborah Sullivan, director Ben Louis Nicks and art director Summer Schneider, who share the creative ideas behind the spot and the incredible results the campaign has already achieved.

LBB> Tell us about the initial stages of the project, what was the concept and what were your initial ideas?  

Deborah> The project came to us with the idea that these counterfeit medications could also be characterised as  ‘fake medications’ - going forward as ‘fake meds.’

LBB> How did the project develop from there?

Deborah> With the possibility of having Danny Trejo interested in the project, we wanted to find a way to appeal directly to consumers - as this really needed to be a consumer awareness campaign - and it was critical we find a way to communicate the danger of the issue as effectively as possible.

Along with our client team - an amazing partnership of smart, motivated and supportive advocates for this initiative - we ran with the idea of relating ‘fake’ to Danny Trejo’s film characters - many of whom are scary, dangerous and life-threatening - but all of it is just ‘FAKE'.

We decided to develop a campaign riffing on the idea of creating a film trailer -  a campaign that was created to work across television, radio, paid social, Instagram, Facebook, print, billboards, out-of-home and press. We created movie posters and even screened a version in Times Square!

LBB> You worked on the creative, production, post, VFX and editorial on this. Tell us about how you utilised The-Artery’s capabilities across the project.

Deborah> We work with an incredible group of artists - including directors, creative directors, writers, art directors, storyboard artists, composers and designers. It was natural to apply our deep production experience working with clients across advertising and film, and bring the talent we felt would create the most compelling communication to this issue.

LBB> The ad required collaboration from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Alliance of Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), The Department of Homeland Security, The National Intellectual Property Rights Center, Crime Stoppers and the Los Angeles Police Department. Why was it important to have them all involved and what insight did they bring?

Deborah> These amazing groups deal with this on a daily basis – and spend countless hours working with victims and families who have been affected by this incredibly dangerous and deadly issue. Counterfeit medications are available online – anyone can purchase them at any time – and over 95% of these sites are UNREGULATED – with a significant number of those providing illegal, deadly drugs to unsuspecting parents, grandparents and children.  

If you scratch the surface of this issue, you realise why it’s so critical that Homeland Security, Crime Stoppers, the LA County Sheriff’s Office and these other teams are working so diligently to break this up.

LBB> Often, pharma ads can be quite serious - why did you go for a comedy route?

Deborah> This was a consumer awareness campaign and the client had already decided we need the weight of a celebrity to help get the word out. Danny Trejo is personally invested in this initiative and spends countless hours on the streets working with victims of the current fentanyl epidemic - he is a proactive and supportive advocate of this approach. He was helpful, informative and contributed his time and energy on a personal level. He was a joy to work with.

The spot kicks off on a serious note and weaves in humour to engage the audience — and when we cut to Danny’s message the audience is already invested in hearing what he has to say.

Ben> Danny Trejo is an impressive actor with an IMDB long enough to require an intermission while browsing. And although Danny plays the villain or bad-guy with panache, his comedy chops are just as good. We wanted to give him a script that flexed his versatility - scenarios that paid tribute to his badass reputation while sticking a tongue firmly in the cheek. 

Danny is a human who walks in two worlds. Sure, he's embedded in the Hollywood scene, but he's as real as they come. So, while weekdays might be spent diffusing bombs on set, his weekends see Danny working with local advocacy groups to help those who are less fortunate. 

Our film was an attempt to balance humour and levity, which we encapsulated in a fake Hollywood setting, with a sobering reminder of the danger of counterfeit drugs. In that sense, Bad Meds as a campaign performs double duty, leading with a laugh before landing a serious message. 

Photo credit: Taili Song Roth

LBB> The campaign was rolled out across a variety of platforms. How did you adapt the assets to suit?

Deborah> As well rolling out on television, radio, paid social, Instagram, Facebook, print, billboards, out-of-home, press, and the screening in Times Square, a recent MMA regional tournament in LA partnering with Danny Trejo also featured the Bad Meds campaign on the ground and multiple afflicted families who have lost their loved ones to this issue. The tournament will run on cable and syndication as we move into the spring and will help to expand awareness.

Each of the assets was created from the imagery captured on the live action set. Our incredible crew, director Ben Nicks and fabulous  photographer were mindful on the day that we would utilise those assets specifically for each planned media. Our art director, Summer Schneider led the way for us and developed all the branding - designed all the assets, media decks and media kit for the campaign.

LBB> What were some of the biggest challenges in this work and what solutions did you come up with?  

Deborah> Some of the challenges were easily solved as the client support was tremendous. But we really wanted to push this work out to as many outlets as possible and, of course, that’s all about budget. But clients asked us to present costs for a smart media plan that we felt could make some noise and create awareness during the holiday season and, once we presented the research, they voted to go forward. They’ve continued to think outside the box with respect to creating consumer awareness in as many different communities as possible.

Summer> The biggest challenge I feel like we faced while creating this campaign was finding the perfect balance between being humorous and ensuring that we were communicating the severity of the issue. We met this challenge multiple times throughout the process, from nailing the ending of our video, to refining type design and determining motion graphic style. Each element had to reinforce the statistics and emotion of the issue while simultaneously breaking the boundaries of your average PSA to grab our audience's attention. I believe this tonal challenge is something that PSAs often face and why the industry generally shies away from humour when creating these types of campaigns. In the end, I think we were more successful in our approach because the humour was unexpected and the quick tonal turn made our audience actually pay attention to the message we were sharing.

LBB> What were some of your highlights or personal favourite moments?

Deborah> Working with Danny Trejo was a fabulous treat – from the live action to the radio record and the multiple interviews he provided - he was a joy. And, honestly, the partnership sponsoring this initiative are the most genuine, motivated and generous clients we could have ever asked for. Their thoughtful and high-level collaboration made this campaign possible.

LBB> What was your reaction to the finished film? What feedback have you received?

Deborah> We’re very proud of the work this team created. The core spot is very well-received and we’re receiving a lot of great feedback on the overall campaign execution.

Most importantly, the initiative has increased awareness of the Safe.Pharmacy website - the target objective - by significant numbers with an  increase average in audience scale from the three launch metro areas of LA, San Francisco and San Jose of +750%.

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The-Artery, Wed, 15 Mar 2023 11:54:38 GMT