Madwell, The Ad Council, and NHTSA Tackle the Topic of Drug-Impaired Driving

·5 min read

BROOKLYN, N.Y., Jan. 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Independent creative agency Madwell teamed up with The Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to launch PSAs that aim to get marijuana users to think twice before getting behind the wheel and driving while high. The work is part of NHTSA and The Ad Council's Drug-Impaired Driving Prevention campaign, which launched in spring 2019 to address this pressing traffic safety issue, which is growing increasingly important as more states legalize the sale and usage of marijuana.

(PRNewsfoto/The Ad Council New York)
(PRNewsfoto/The Ad Council New York)

Research indicates that young men do not believe consuming marijuana has an effect on their driving. Thus, the challenge for this campaign is to create doubt in this long-standing claim, while taking into account that the young male target trusts their experiences over experts, especially when it comes to something as polarizing as marijuana usage, and is highly resistant to being told what to do.

"Our strategy focused on solving a timeless paradox," said Amber Hahn, Madwell's SVP, Head of Integrated Strategy. "We know young men are resistant to messages from enforcers and experts, particularly around topics like marijuana use. The best way to begin to change attitudes and behavior on this issue is to frame it up through the lens of their personal experience, as if it was coming from a peer."

In a 15-second spot titled "I'm in an Ad," the hero, in a smoky house party, breaks character (and the 4th wall) to remind the audience not to drive if they're high. As the lights go up, the smoke-filled room is revealed to actually be a studio set.

In the 30-second "Not Camping Day" spot, four friends smoke marijuana while packing for a camping trip, but realize they can't leave when no one gets behind the wheel to drive because everyone is high. They make the best of the situation by camping on the front lawn instead.

Each ad ends with the tagline, "If you feel different, you drive different," and a reminder that driving while high is illegal everywhere, including in states where marijuana consumption is legal.

"From slowed reaction time and impaired judgment to decreased coordination, driving under the influence of marijuana puts all motorists at risk. This vital campaign educates drivers on the dangers of driving high while reminding them it is always illegal, and does so in a way that speaks candidly – not condescendingly – to our target," said Michelle Hillman, Chief Campaign Development Officer at the Ad Council.

The partners were determined to handle the topic sensitively considering the history of how scare tactics have been used unsuccessfully to address drug use in America. Madwell's work focuses instead on the straightforward traffic safety message: if you're high, just don't drive.

"Our goal was to create something that spoke differently within the category, and to our target," said Madwell's Associate Creative Director, C.J. Thomas. "We didn't want to villainize the act of consuming marijuana or people who choose to do it. We just wanted to show people having fun and enjoying themselves, while also making the right decision not to drive when they're high."

The complete suite of assets is slated to include TV and digital video, radio, OOH, digital banner, and print creative. TV and online video will be available in January 2022, with other media types to follow in Q2 2022. The creative will be distributed nationally via The Ad Council's donated media model.

About Madwell

10+ years in the industry, and they're still independent, founder-led, and on a mission to prove that you don't need to be a 10,000 person holding company to make incredible work that's incredibly effective. Madwell lives by a founding spirit: Madness well-harnessed is genius (otherwise, it's just madness). They believe being different makes a difference. Creativity is most powerful when fueled by diversity of thought, experience, and perspective, and Madwell holds themselves accountable for it. Everyone at Madwell is encouraged to bring their unique experience to the table to make creative magic happen, and the result is a visibly tight-knit team that goes above and beyond for each other and for their clients.

About Ad Council

The Ad Council has a long history of creating life-saving public service communications in times of national crisis, starting in the organization's earliest days during World War II to September 11th and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and, most recently, leading the industry's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its deep relationships with media outlets, the creative community, issue experts and government leaders make the organization uniquely poised to quickly distribute life-saving impactful information to millions of Americans.

The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation's most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels.

The Ad Council's innovative social good campaigns raise awareness, inspire action and save lives. To learn more, visit, follow the Ad Council's communities on Facebook and Twitter, and view the creative on YouTube.


For more than 50 years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has served as the key federal agency charged with improving safety on our nation's roadways. As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA is working to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries by promoting the use of seat belts and child safety seats; helping states and local communities address the threat of distracted, drunk and drug-impaired drivers; regulating vehicle safety standards and investigating safety defects in motor vehicles; establishing and enforcing fuel economy standards; conducting research on driver behavior and traffic safety; and providing consumer information on issues ranging from child passenger safety to impaired driving. For more information visit


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SOURCE The Ad Council