Cocaine Unwrapped

There is a line in the Steve Jobs book – ‘there falls a shadow between creation and execution’. The line relates to Jobs’ dedication to execute brilliance, not to just think it up. Well, in this case, the idea is great, but its meaning is lost in the execution.

This is an ad by Leo Burnett to promote the documentary, “Cocaine Unwrapped”; produced to take viewers on a true journey through the cocaine trade, including the international distribution of the drug as well as the money that fuels it.

Rather than release a straight forward trailer, Dartmouth Films (the studio who funded the movie) collaborated with Leo Burnett to create a campaign to raise awareness amongst the British public of how cocaine consumption in the UK has been damaging South America.

Now the concept they apply is actually something completely different and a good one around the idea that purchasing cocaine in the UK is ‘fuelling the machine’. The ads relies on computer-animated graphics to show people being plucked off of the street by giant claws, and tossed into an machine without a conscience or ethics. See – a very effective metaphor for the carnage perpetuated in order to keep the drug trade ‘assembly line’ running… But the execution of the spot doesn’t fully capture this, or of what it does capture, the real message becomes lost as a gimmick in the ad.

Our instant reaction when we saw this ad was, ‘what computer game is this advertising?’, and even on that basis we did not have the intention to go out and buy it! The problem of cocaine is a serious one, but the ad makes the situation less real.

This topic already has such a large disconnect due to the geographic distance between the cause and the source of the problem. As a nation, we don’t see the carnage, so the view is that it is not happening.

For this to achieve “real personality”, we feel a far more minimal approach would have worked better. One which focuses on the importance of the issue, removing anything which doesn’t immediately address the problem and backs it up with hard hitting facts and data. If you want to make an impact with a message about drugs, use stone cold statistics and offer access to the harrowing facts just as the film does (some soundbites from the doc include: the Global Cocaine Trade being worth over $85 billion per annum – bigger business than Microsoft, Pfizer, Unilever and Boeing; and for every line of cocaine snorted in the UK, one innocent life is lost in South America). MINDBLOWING , NO?!?!

Some people don’t think shock advertising works because it is too direct. However some situations warrant such shock. Tell people the truth, because then they are not “watching an advert”; you are made to look directly at the problem.

Its awful when you think of this fundamentally. Cocaine is the product; South America the company and the UK one of its biggest customers. We can see the push Leo Burnett have gone for – visceral imagery, but it doesn’t bring the facts to life and we can’t see this engaging the public into the debate needed to move this agenda forward. This ad uses gimmicks to emphasise their importance and it doesn’t work. Leo Burnett have confronted the realism, but miss the reality – they don’t indicate the human lives lost to this.



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This entry was posted on May 22, 2012 by in Shock Advertising, TV Advert and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .


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