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New Campaign Uses Puppets To Teach About Addiction

Clearly the topic of addiction is something that should be shielded from children (whenever possible). But sometimes it takes a different way of thinking to spread the word about just how devastating this issue can be. So the advertising agency VML Global has decided to give some PSA’s a “Sesame Street” type spin; not to attract kids, but to create a viral conversation starter that brings awareness to America’s opioid epidemic. And true to their mission, VML’s “Mom Overdose” short is getting many major outlets talking.


The Washington Post broadcast the video in full and sat down for an interview with its creators. For reference, the complete “Mom’s Had An Overdose” PSA is below…



As you can see, there are some harsh truths behind it. Perhaps the most jarring component (other than a heroin addicted puppet) is the quote at the end, taken from a real six-year-old girl. “Mom always says, ‘Don’t call an ambulance unless I’m shaking or foaming at the mouth,” it reads. Statements don’t get more honest, than that. And it does accurately represent just how bad the opioid crisis has become.


The piece then ends with the line: No child should have to learn a lesson like this. Help break the cycle of addictionfollowed by a treatment web destination.


Interestingly enough, VML made this as a series of videos that cover other alarming topics as well. One musically-tinged puppet addresses gun violence, while another confronts gangs. Yet another touches on poverty, all from the angle of innocent children who are unwillingly caught up in the crossfire.


“These are lessons that no one should have to learn,” VML CEO Jon Cook told The Post. “So you’ve got to tell them in a format that we use to teach positive lessons — and that’s puppets and that’s ‘Sesame Street.’ ”


Though certainly controversial, these ads (for the most part) have received a very positive response. Within the advertising industry, the Clio Awards have taken notice of VML and acknowledged the creativity behind these messages. The clips themselves have now received thousands of YouTube views and when unveiled at a Kansas City fundraising event last month, they earned a standing ovation.


We appreciate the fact that VML’s PSA’s do not appear gimicky in the slightest and tell hard truths about addiction. It could have been very easy to take a puppet format and make a mockery of this issue. But, to their credit, VML has done their job creatively, respectfully and (most important) effectively.