Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1390, (19 - 25 April 2018)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1390, (19 - 25 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Stronger than addiction

The appearance of Liverpool player Mohamed Salah in an anti-drug television campaign leads to helpline calls tripling, writes Inas Mazhar


An advertisement featuring Egypt international and Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah which carries the slogan “You are stronger than drugs” has led to a massive increase in the number of people enquiring about addiction treatments, says Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali.

“Calls to the helpline number —16023 — of the National Fund for Drug Control and Treatment of Addiction are up from 150 to 500 a day since the ad was released,” says fund chair Wali.

“The campaign is a huge success and we are really happy with the contribution of such a positive role model as Salah.”

As part of its ongoing efforts to combat addiction the fund recently spot-tested 778 school bus drivers from the Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia, Gharbiya, Red Sea and Beheira governorates between 18 February and 12 April. Twenty-six drivers tested positive for drugs. The fund, says Wali, intends to continue with the spot tests, with a particular focus on school bus drivers.

Manager of the National Fund, Amr Osman, attributes the success of the latest ad campaign targeting 13 to 18 year olds to several factors, chief among them “the popularity of Mohamed Salah”.

“Salah is not just a brilliant football player, he is an influential role model as well, and not only for children and youth,” says Osman.

“This is not the first time we have worked with Salah. It is his fourth advertisement with us. Throughout the campaign, which started almost a year ago, he has been very helpful. He follows up with us and is keen to know the results of the campaign. We are in regular contact, providing him with feedback as soon as figures become available.”

“While shooting the last ad in Liverpool he asked us when the next one was scheduled. Salah is not just a footballer who takes part in our ads, he has become part of our team.”

The ad quickly went viral on social media networks. Within a week of its release it had more than 14 million combined views on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and 10 million on the page of the fund.

“Another reason for the success of the ad,” says Osman, “is that it was a very creative piece of work. It emerged out of a series of brainstorming workshops during which all our stakeholders brought ideas to the table.”

“It was brilliantly directed by Tamer Mohsen, who was responsible for Taht Al-Saytara (Under Control), the Ramadan series tackling addiction which was aired two years ago. He knew all about the topic, a subject in which he is invested.”

“There was also the input of singer Mohamed Hamaki, whose influential words and lyrics helped make the ad such a great work of art.”

“The feedback has been astounding. Our hotline is always busy. People are calling from everywhere in the country and they are not all addicts. Family members call too. While addicts usually ask for treatments, which we offer for free, others call for consultations, some to discuss the issue itself and means of combating and fighting it while families are often seeking more information about symptoms.”

The “You are stronger than drugs” campaign has also gleaned international praise with anti-drug groups as far away as China and India urging their governments to adopt a similar approach.

“I was very proud when I saw our advert on the front page of China’s General Security. I was interviewed by Chinese TV and they wanted to know all about the campaign,” says Osman.

“It’s great to feel our work and initiatives are appreciated by other countries which are now looking to us as an example.”

Osman was recently chosen to represent the Middle East and North Africa region in formulating an international strategy to combat the promotion of smoking products.

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