Would you like to try drugs?

The question of whether or not you want to try drugs is often a question you are not prepared for.

These situations often involve both alcohol and peer pressure, and it is not hard to imagine that this gives the situation an extra dimension of difficulty.

Our goal with www.trydrugs.net is that people should be able to try drugs without really trying it, and at the end decide what they would answer when asked if they want to try drugs for real.

The site is intended for young boys and girls who are regular Internet users. The intention is also that during your visit on the site you should be both scared and get the sense of losing control.

Trying drugs for the first time

“How can we get young people to make up their mind about trying drugs before getting the actual offer?”

This was the brief Kitchen Advertising Agency approached us with, in February this year, on behalf of the department of alcohol and drugs issues at the Municipality of Oslo.

Well, why not give people the option of trying drugs online?

We immediately started discussing ways of simulating the drug experience in a web site.

Can we let the computer take over the user’s life? How about getting the printer to start printing pages? How can we use the CD tray? Can we force the users’ personal email client to send out e-mails to contacts in the address book and ask them for drugs? Fill up the desktop with drugs?

Maybe the grand finale should be to crash the computer completely?

Experimenting with drugs

To find answers to these questions we started experimenting…No, not with drugs, but with Flash’s capabilities.

Initially we were playing with the idea of the site being a downloadable projector file. That would have given us more control; i.e. opening/closing the CD tray, and start printouts without showing system dialog boxes.

It is also relatively simple to change the desktop background without the user knowing. We did, however, decide that these things would probably just annoy the user more than affect them in the way we wanted. So we went back to what can we do online, and keeping it simple.

To create the experience of trying drugs on a web site, we went for a clean and simple interface combined with video, distorted music and sound effects. We wanted to create an authentic experience and actually tested the site on drug-addicts prior to its launch.

We thought it was important that they could recognize the lyrics, that the site gave them the right feeling and that they did not find it moralizing. The snorting sounds in the cocaine section are actually recorded in a bathroom to get just the right sound.

The use of all narcotic drugs is illegal

To enhance the “scare and lose control” part, we look up every visitor’s IP-address and use the names that are registered in the global whois-database in a fake system dialog box. If you’re on a home computer you might only get your ISP’s technical contact. But, if you’re at work, or school, there is a good chance that you will get a name of a person you know.

The dialog box also contains the Norwegian Police’s logo and says that illegal activities have been registered. Even though tracking an IP address is a relatively simple process, this ended up being maybe the strongest way to scare the visitor.

We have received quite a few emails from concerned parents whose kids have told them about the police tracking their IP. We feel that this is a sign that the site is doing its job; people take it seriously.

The site opens in a fullscreen pop-up window. The main reason we chose to do that was to get the visitor to turn off their popup blocker, so that we could display a little popping spree in the end. You can write about the consequences of using drugs but the impact of a pop-up window with the site of a funeral home is much larger.

Getting addictive

The Norwegian version of the site (www.provnarkotika.com) and the translated English version (www.trydrugs.net) combined has had more than 200 000 unique visitors in about 10 weeks.

The only banner ad (for a short period of time) the campaign has had was a small gif on MSN Messenger stating “click here to try drugs” in Norwegian.

Numerous blogs and forums have commented on the campaign, and the site had many hits shortly after the launch, many of them from google-searches. So it is obviously many people searching for information on drugs online.

The site has won multiple awards in Norway and also picked up a bronze at the Cyber Lions in addition to the FWA SOTD.

About the author, Sverre Stabel
Creative Technologist, MediaFront

Sverre Stabel is a creative technologist, designer and lead Flash developer at MediaFront in Oslo, Norway.

About MediaFront:

MediaFront is one of Norway’s leading interactive agencies specializing in developing interactive advertising campaigns and design for web.

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