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From the 7th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Don’t Risk It: Substance Use Disorder Prevention

Finalist in Public Health


Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a complex brain disease that develops when individuals form a dependence on alcohol or drugs and experience uncontrollable cravings and compulsive behaviors to obtain the substance.

In Kent County, substance use was found to be one of the top health concerns by residents during the 2017 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Last year, more Michiganders died from drug overdoses than car accidents and, exacerbated by mental health challenges related to the pandemic, the United States saw overdose deaths top 100,000 for the first time in 2021.

To address these concerns, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) obtained a grant from the State Opioid Response Program to implement a digital messaging campaign related to substance use, misuse and abuse. Specifically, KCHD aims to increase awareness of the risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs among teens and young adults.

With this campaign, we needed to reach individuals ages 14-25 – from middle and high school through  college-age students, as well as young adults just beginning their careers. Whether to cope with stress, in response to peer pressure, to get high, or even operating under the mistaken assumption that prescription drugs are safe because they come from a pharmacy, our campaign needed to speak to them in their language and on their terms to help them understand the risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

Strategy and Execution

The statistics make it clear that educating Kent County teens and young adults could save lives. We determined the best way to reach our target audience is through social media, but how do you get teens to pay attention to an important, potentially life-saving message? We decided to hijack their eyeballs with a humorous, attention-grabbing social media campaign in support of our ultimate goal: increase awareness of the risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs among teens and young adults.

Taking medication that isn’t prescribed to you is dangerous, and we knew it would be key for our messaging to resonate with young people without feeling preachy.

We developed the campaign, “Don’t Risk It,” as a series of stories, based on a central style and theme. Our team conducted primary and secondary research, including a series of focus groups, that informed and tested our messaging and creative. As a result, we tweaked ad copy slightly to optimize for our 14-17 year-old audience versus our 18-25 year-olds. We then produced attention-getting, short-form videos and served them as Instagram and Snapchat ads, as both platforms have proven successful in reaching a young audience for previous KCHD campaigns. The end result brings a touch of humor, but reminds the audience of the important key message: only take pills prescribed to you by your doctor.

The campaign includes a library of dynamic, visually appealing videos that resonate with our key audiences. The videos initially launched as part of a targeted eight-week social media campaign in July and August 2021. By investing in high-quality creative, KCHD now has a robust, evergreen collection of creative assets that not only fueled the campaign, but also support ongoing KCHD initiatives.

Our in-house team has handled every detail of campaign execution, from campaign set-up and targeting parameters to launch, monitoring and ongoing optimization. We constantly analyzed campaign performance to ensure the best outcomes and provide regular metrics updates. By interpreting the data rather than just reporting metrics, we offer valuable insights to our clients.


We were confident that the “Don’t Risk It” campaign would resonate with audiences. Prior to launch, we  estimated that the initial eight-week campaign would generate a minimum reach of 308,000 and at least 2,180 clicks or swipe-ups. The campaign ran between July and September 2021 and the results blew us away!

In the first month, our Snapchat and Instagram stories ads surpassed 600k and received more than 3,000 swipe-ups to visit the KCHD website. Clear favorites among the ads emerged early on, but running a variety of ads throughout the campaign kept performance steady for the duration.

We were thrilled when the Instagram campaign garnered 374,000 impressions with a reach of 115,106 and 350,983 total video plays. On Snapchat, the campaign received 385,810 impressions and 3,159 swipe-ups, averaging an overall .82% swipe-up rate. We wrapped up the campaign with more than 750,000 impressions, a truly impressive 12% video completion rate and remarkable 15% swipe-up rate!

Due to the campaign’s success, Kent County Health Department recently engaged King to launch “Don’t Risk It” for another eight-week digital campaign.


Video for Don’t Risk It: Substance Use Disorder Prevention

Entrant Company / Organization Name

King Media, Kent County Health Department