Actor Chris Farley died of an overdose in 1997. Click to see entire billboard.
Mr. Farley, who appeared in only one advertisement his entire career -- a promotional spot for ESPN in the mid-1990s -- appears larger-than-life in a less-than-flattering billboard image that has gone up in several areas in Los Angeles. The tagline on the billboards says, "It wasn't all his fault." The copy also says, "Addiction is physical. The treatment is medical."
The outdoor campaign is accompanied by radio spots in L.A. and an Internet buy, including paid search on Google, MSN and Yahoo for 100 words related to alcohol and drug addiction treatment. Online advertising also appears on laweekly.com, latimes.com and la.com.
The campaign will roll out nationally in the coming months. Hythiam, a publicly traded health-care management company based in Los Angeles that originated the Prometa treatment, plans a seven-figure print and TV component later this year.
Prometa is a protocol, not a drug. It is a detailed plan that combines prescription medication and nutrition, and is designed to target biochemical imbalances in the brain caused by chronic abuse of alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine. The treatment plan is currently licensed by more than two dozen physicians, physician groups, treatment centers and hospitals.
Tom Farley, Chris Farley's brother and the executive director of the Farley Foundation, became familiar with Hythiam last year while attending the Community Anti-Drug Coaltion of America Conference in Washington.
Brother approves ad
"We never wanted to appear as though Chris' family was looking to make money off of Chris' name, which is why we chose the foundation as our public face. When [Prometa] came along we immediately identified it as something that furthers the brand we've established," Tom Farley said. "If we were going to do something in Chris' name, we wanted it to be something he would have done when he was still alive. We're not talking bobbleheads here."
Tom Farley actually voices the radio ads.
Male voiceover: "So this big comedian walks on stage wearing nothing but a bow tie, cufflinks and tight pants ...
"He dances like a two-ton love machine. Audiences love him ...
"He becomes a star in big-budget Hollywood movies.
(Laugh and applause)
"He goes in and out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse.
"He dies of an overdose at age 33.
"My brother Chris Farley battled with addiction and lost. But it wasn’t all his fault. Research has shown that drug and alcohol dependence is a disease associated with biochemical changes in the brain. Now there’s a promising new medical treatment available."
A female voiceover then provides a toll-free number that consumers can call to learn more about the treatment.
Credible way to do DTC
Hythiam CEO Terren Peizer said he always planned to take Prometa direct-to-consumer, but was looking for a credible way to do so.
"We thought it would be an effect medium and help de-stigmatize drug addiction," he said. "Only 16% of people who need treatment seek it, and that's usually through intervention."