This Is Your Brain on Drugs

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The Partnership used a simple advertisement showing an egg in a frying pan, similar to this photo, suggesting that the effect of drugs on a brain was like a hot pan on an egg.

This Is Your Brain on Drugs was a large-scale US anti-narcotics campaign by Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) launched in 1987, that used three televised public service announcements (PSAs) and a related poster campaign.

1987 version[edit]

The 30-second version of the first PSA, from 1987, shows a man (played by John Roselius) in a starkly furnished apartment who asks if there is anyone out there who still doesn't understand the dangers of drug abuse. He holds up an egg and says, "This is your brain," before motioning to a frying pan and adding, "This is drugs." He then cracks open the egg, fries the contents, and says, "This is your brain on drugs." Finally he looks up at the camera and asks, "Any questions?"

In contrast, the 10-second and 15-second versions simply show a close-up of an egg dropping into a frying pan. This is accompanied by a voice-over saying in the 15-second version: "Okay, last time. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?" The 10-second version omits the first sentence.

The PSA, titled "Frying Pan" (a.k.a. "Fried Egg" and "Any Questions?"), was conceived by art directors Scot Fletcher and Rick Bell, copywriter Larre Johnson and creative director Paul Keye at Los Angeles-based agency keye/donna/pearlstein. It was directed by Joe Pytka through his own Venice-based production company Pytka Productions and produced by agency producer Harvey Greenberg, Pytka executive producer Jane McCann and Pytka producer John Turney. Anthony Marinelli scored the shorter versions.[1][2]

1997 version[edit]

The second PSA, from 1997,[3] featured 18-year-old actress Rachael Leigh Cook, who, as before, holds up an egg and says, "this is your brain", before lifting up a frying pan with the words, "this is heroin", after which she places the egg on a kitchen counter—"this is what happens to your brain after snorting heroin"—and slams the pan down on it. She lifts the pan back up, saying, "and this is what your body goes through", in reference to the remnants of the smashed egg now dripping from the bottom of the pan and down her arm. Cook then says, "It's not over yet", and proceeds to smash everything in the kitchen with the frying pan in a rage, yelling "And this is what your family goes through! And your friends! And your money! And your job! And your self-respect! And your future!" She ends with "And your life." Cook finally drops the pan on the counter of the now-wrecked kitchen, and, back to her calmer self, says, "Any questions?"

This PSA, likewise titled "Frying Pan", was conceived by art director Doug Hill, copywriter Ken Cills and creative director Graham Turner at New York-based agency Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners. It was directed by Eden Tyler through New York-based production company Zooma Zooma, produced by agency producer Ed Kleban and Zooma Zooma producer Joseph Mantegna and edited by Jay Nelson at Santa Monica-based Avenue Edit.[4][5]

2016 version[edit]

The third PSA, from 2016, is a loose remake which shows an egg in a human hand, stating "This is your brain", alongside a frying pan that the other hand is pointing to, stating "This is drugs", and the egg is cracked and gets fried onto the pan, stating "This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?". This follows it with scenes of teens, with various ones saying "Um, yeah, I have questions", "Prescription drugs aren't as bad as street drugs, right?", "Weed's legal, isn't it?", "Drinking is worse than smoking weed. Isn't it?", "Why is heroin so addictive?", "Molly just makes you feel happy", "I have questions", "Mom", "Dad, did you ever try drugs?" The narrator returns to say, "They're going to ask. Be ready."[6]

2017 War on Drugs Critique version[edit]

In 2017, Rachael Leigh Cook used imagery from the This is Your Brain on Drugs commercials in a PSA by the Drug Policy Alliance. The PSA critiqued the War on Drugs and its contribution to mass incarceration, structural racism and poverty. The ad was posted to YouTube on April 20, 2017 in recognition of 4/20.[7]

2018 Brain on Cannabis version[edit]

In 2018, professional chef Todd Sugimoto was cast to mimic the original motions and lines from the first PSA, from 1987. The concept was meant to help raise awareness on the changing laws and perception of legal cannabis. Filmed in a posh and modern apartment, the chef asks if there is anyone out there who still isn't clear on the effects of cannabis on the brain. He holds up an egg and says, "This is your brain," before motioning to a frying pan and adding, "This is cannabis." He then cracks open the egg, then a montage of skillful chopping and advanced chef techniques are shown prior to a reveal of a gourmet egg dish, as he says, "This is your brain on cannabis." Finally he looks up at the camera and asks, "Any questions?"

This version of the PSA, titled "Brain on Cannabis", was conceived by creative director Dustin Iannotti, at Las Vegas-based agency Artisans on Fire. It was edited by agency-editor Zach Honea.[8][9][10][11]

Impact[edit]

TV Guide named the commercial one of the top one hundred television advertisements of all time,[12] and Entertainment Weekly named it the 8th best commercial of all time.[13]

The American Egg Board had an issue with the PSA because they didn't want their product associated with the unhealthiness of drug use. They worried that young children might misinterpret the TV message and think that eggs were harmful.[14]

A poster produced in the early 1990s called "Famous Brains on Drugs" parodied the concept by having eggs appear in the frying pan in forms intended to remind the viewer of certain people. For instance, a pan labeled "Saddam Hussein" had an egg with a crosshair over it, and a pan labeled "Milli Vanilli" contained a box of imitation eggs.[citation needed] There have also been parody T-shirts, such as versions based on The Simpsons ("This is your brain on donuts", showing a X-ray of Homer Simpson's head) and the Yankees–Red Sox rivalry (shirts targeted to both alliegiances of the famed rivalry), among others.[citation needed]

Saturday Night Live parodied the PSA in its "This is your brain on drugs, with a side of bacon" skit.[13]

In an episode of the sitcom Roseanne, the title character reenacts the PSA while having a conversation with one of her children about drugs.[14]

An episode of the teen series Beverly Hills, 90210 ends with the characters Brandon and Brenda Walsh acting out the PSA with their friends in their favorite diner. After the show, the actual 30-second commercial aired, and Jason Priestley delivered his own anti-drug message on the air.[14]

In the eighteenth episode of the second season of the sitcom Married... with Children, "What Goes Around Comes Around" (1990), the character Al Bundy takes an egg, says "This is your brain," then says "This is your brain on marriage," drops it on the ground, and asks, "Any questions?"[15]

The "brain on drugs" line was sampled in Boogie Down Productions' 1990 political hip hop song "Love's Gonna Get'cha (Material Love)" and "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1992 parody song "I Can't Watch This".[16]

The 1991 film sequel Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare spoofed the PSA by having Johnny Depp (whose acting career began with the original A Nightmare on Elm Street movie) perform the skit. The PSA goes on as normal until Robert Englund (who plays Freddy Krueger) hits Depp with the frying pan and says, "Yeah! What are you on? Looks like a frying pan and some eggs to me."[17]

Bill Hicks spoke negatively about the commercial frequently during his stand-up routine, claiming "I've seen a lot of weird shit on drugs, I've never ever ever ever ever looked at an egg and thought it was a fucking brain."[18]

PTV did a parody of the famous PSA as well, in a short titled "This is your brain on books", in which a gold egg falls on a frying pan with books on it, then falls into a human brain, in which he thinks about composing, computing, and creating, ending it all with "Any questions?".[19]

In the film Batman Forever (1995), the character the Riddler parodies the commercial. It is also spoofed in Scary Movie 2 (2001).[citation needed]

The second version was satirized in the first ever episode of the animated television sketch show Robot Chicken, "Junk in the Trunk" (2005). Rachael Leigh Cook (who provided the voice acting) goes on a psychopathic rampage, destroying everything she encounters, ending eventually with her smashing herself in the head and falling down a building.[20]

The title of the popular science book This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (2006) by Daniel Levitin is a nod to the PSA.

In the tenth episode of the second season of the TV series Breaking Bad, "Over" (2009), the character Jesse Pinkman, references the commercial, frying one egg and saying, "this is your brain" then adding another egg and saying "this is your brain on drugs."[21]

In 2012, two PSAs based on the PDFA campaign were released by Tea Party activist Herman Cain. The violent death of a goldfish and a rabbit were supposed to represent what President Obama's stimulus plan did to the American economy.[22]

Rob DenBlyker, one of the creators of the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness, parodied the commercial in a 2013 installment where a father, after re-enacting the commercial, admits to his son that he himself is on drugs. "But I don't see how that's relevant," he adds.[23]

The sixteenth episode of the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, "Muscles Mirsky", referenced the PSA when Beverly was making breakfast.[24]

A recent CBS Cares PSA parodied this in talking about sunburn, which showed raw bacon that accompanied a voice saying "This is your skin", and a slice of it was then placed in a frying pan, cooking it, stating "This is your skin in the sun", and then follows it by a shot of a sun in which the voice says "Any questions?", accompanied by the phrase "Save your bacon. Use sunscreen." superimposed over the sun.[25]

Whilst promoting the 2016 superhero film Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds did his take on the PSA in character. First he says "Hi. Deadpool here, with a very important announcement." He holds up a chimichinga saying "This is your brain. Actually, it's a chimichinga. But, I'm making a point, because..." And points to a giant chimichinga on the table saying "This... is your brain on IMAX. Bigger is better, right?" Followed by clips from the film.

When children's television series SpongeBob SquarePants aired on MTV in 2008, a promo was made to play before the show began that parodied this ad.[citation needed]

A promo for the upcoming CBS series Limitless also parodied the script of the PSA, featuring the script "This is Brian. This is Brian on NZT. Any questions?".[citation needed]

English virtual band Gorillaz used the PSA in the music video for their single "Sleeping Powder".

The Late Late Show With James Corden parodied the PSA by having Corden begin to shoot a remake of the original, then engineer a series of outtakes and eat the eggs.

To promote season 2 of Riverdale on Netflix, Camila Mendes, who plays Veronica Lodge, re-stages the 1997 version PSA, which featured actor Rachel Leigh Cook. It's shot-for-shot, except instead of egg, she uses a burger, and instead of talking about heroin, she talks about Jingle Jangle.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Partnership for a Drug-Free America: Any Questions? {Advertising Council Exhibition: Anti-Drug}". Paley Center for Media.
  2. ^ Robert Goldrich (June 24, 1988). "Scot Fletcher, Art Director: Rubin Postaer & Associates, Los Angeles". Backstage. 29 (26).
  3. ^ Mercedes M. Cardona (November 3, 1997). "Drug Partnership Ads Tackle Heroin Use by Youth: 'Frying Pan' Reinterpreted by Margeotes in Updated Spot". Advertising Age. 68 (44).
  4. ^ "Partnership Against Drugs Association Drug Awareness: Frying Pan". Adeevee.
  5. ^ "The Partnership's Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Creation of Campaign Advertisements". National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Spring 1998. Archived from the original (press release) on May 11, 2000.
  6. ^ Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (7 August 2016). "Fried Egg 2016" – via YouTube.
  7. ^ "Watch Rachael Leigh Cook Remake 'Brain on Drugs' Ad for 4/20".
  8. ^ "A New Cannabis PSA Breaks a Few Eggs to Combat Stigma". SF Weekly.
  9. ^ "The New 'This Is Your Brain On Cannabis' Ad Is Rad". Entrepreneur.
  10. ^ "This Week's 4 Head-Spinning Moments: Trend Adjustments". Restaurant Business Online.
  11. ^ "Pot Stocks, ETFs, Top News And Data From The Cannabis Industry This Week". CNNMoney.
  12. ^ Erika Alexander (December 6, 2000). "Famous fried eggs: Students debate effectiveness, accuracy of well-known anti-drug commercial". CNN.
  13. ^ a b "The 50 Best Commercials of All Time". Entertainment Weekly (372). March 28, 1997.
  14. ^ a b c "The Partnerships "Fried Egg" TV Message". The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. August 16, 2006. Archived from the original (press release) on September 26, 2006.
  15. ^ "What Goes Around Comes Around". TV.com.
  16. ^ "This Is Your Brain on Drugs". WhoSampled.
  17. ^ Michael Ferguson (2005). Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies (2nd ed.). Sarasota, Florida: STARbooks Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-1-891855-48-1.
  18. ^ Bill Hicks (1992). "Drugs Have Done Good Things" on Relentless (live album). Rykodisc. Event occurs at 3:22–3:29.
  19. ^ PBSfanatic (15 November 2016). "PBS Kids: This is Your Brain on Books (2003)" – via YouTube.
  20. ^ "Robot Chicken: Junk in the Trunk Episode Trivia". TV.com.
  21. ^ "Breaking Bad > Season 2 > Episode 10". TV.com.
  22. ^ Ben Johnson; Slate V Staff (March 26, 2012). "New Herman Cain Ad Uses Monty Python Levels of Violence, Rabbits". Slate.
  23. ^ Rob DenBlyker (October 8, 2013). "Cyanide and Happiness #3327". explosm.net.
  24. ^ "The Goldbergs s01e15 Episode Script - SS". Springfield! Springfield!.
  25. ^ "CBS Cares TV Commercial, 'Save Your Bacon'". iSpot.tv.
  26. ^ "Netflix Launches "Riverdale" Jingle Jangle PSA". teenvogue.com.

External links[edit]