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Is this our brain on drugs? Take a look at these emoji-filled anti-drug ads

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids constructed its newest ads entirely from emoji in an apparent attempt at targeting teens and tweens.
/ Source: TODAY

We can all clearly remember the anti-drug advertisements from our childhood — perhaps too clearly — and for good reason: They were effective.

The infamous “This is your brain on drugs” campaign stands out as a particularly disturbing meme that captivated us with stark wording, extreme imagery, and a crazed Rachael Leigh Cook wielding a saucepan.

Now, the organization behind those bewildering-yet-compelling commercials is back. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids decided to construct its newest ads for its #WeGotYou campaign entirely from emoji, in an apparent attempt at targeting teens and tweens.

When we first heard about all this, we imagined a coherent written message coupled with a trippy collage of eggplants and poodles. But, alas, it looks like that's not where hours of brainstorming led these marketers. Instead, the emoji are the text. That is to say that these print, online, and, yes, even billboard messages use emojis and only emojis to convey messages to teens.

Take a look.

Courtesy The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

After much deliberation, we've decoded the following: “I do not have to be wasted to have fun.”


Let it be known that this reporter is a millennial. And I’m confounded, too.

I respect the Partnership's willingness to get down with 21st-century slang. Still, I'm not sure that emoji has anything to do with the speech patterns of America's youth. For one thing, the people who created the much-loved cartoon toolkit are Japanese. And for another thing, while a well-placed slice of pizza or rainbow might add depth or humor to a text conversation, we’re completely lost without at least some semblance of relevant context.

But I do admire the organization's efforts to steer this campaign away from anti-drug campaigns of the past. And in the end, maybe forcing people to slow down and figure out these messages with minimal context is the whole point.

"Kids are much more more savvy these days," Kristi Rowe, chief marketing officer at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, told TODAY. "They're much more wise. And we don't want to just say, 'You messed up.' We want to acknowledge that things might happen, and that you can rise above them."

Rowe mentioned that the experience of reading and deciphering the ads is supposed to be painstaking. "These kids should stop and think, rather than just skimming and moving on," she said. "That's what this ad (and any ad) is supposed to accomplish."

Courtesy The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

After much stopping and thinking, we've got this one, too: “I wish likes weren’t so important.”

Truthfully, we’d take asmashed egg over an egg emoji any day. But we're glad the organization's still out there spreading these important messages, and we commend them for all their work — which, by the way, is only available only through a mobile site (computers are so 2014).

What do you think of the ads? Let us know in the comments.