GMMB Response to WRAP

Contact: Will Taliaferro,

  • WA DOH
  • Stellantis
  • ACTS

Washington Department of Health (WA DOH)

Since 2016, we have worked with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to conduct cannabis prevention outreach to youth (ages 12-17). The You Can campaign educates about the risks and consequences of using cannabis and encourages youth to pursue whatever is important to them—without letting cannabis get in the way. In recent years, the campaign has evolved to include a focus on enhancing protective factors and increasing resilience to help youth resist drugs.

To develop the You Can campaign, we engaged 55 youth in a three-week online discussion board to gain a more nuanced understanding of what teen life is like in Washington state and probe awareness of the risks and consequences of using cannabis, reasons why some teens use, and messaging that would prevent peers from using. To examine ideas and themes that surfaced during the discussion board, we followed up with in-person interviews with eight teens in rural and urban areas.

Based on the research findings, we developed three creative concepts with different ways to bring key insights to life through varied color schemes, visuals, fonts, and message points. Each concept also featured a distinct brand, including a campaign name, look and feel, logo, and tone. From there, we tested concepts with a diverse group of 79 teens across ten, 90-minute focus groups in Seattle, Tukwila, Spokane, Vancouver, and Yakima. The groups covered knowledge and believability of cannabis prevention messages, a ranking of the three campaign concepts, and a discussion of the best communications channels to reach teens and who they trust as messengers.

You Can was voted by teens as the most appealing and effective concept because it used clear, positive language that was motivational, inspiring, and relatable; and provided facts and information that was applicable to “real life” situations in a non-judgmental way. Bolstered by insights from testing, GMMB developed creative assets spanning digital ads, a mobile-first website, videos, blogs, social pages, and branded giveaways.

We deliver these messages through a robust website and several waves of targeted media buys that reach teens strategically through multiple touch points in the digital universe—when they game, listen to streaming radio, interact with friends on social media, and look up information. To date, ad buys have generated more than 431 million impressions, 59 million video completes, and 2.1 million ad clicks. Partners also find the campaign materials useful, and have downloaded more than 2,751 assets from online toolkits, tailoring them, and disseminating them in local communities. 

You Can’s unique brand identity features photos of diverse teens across race, ethnicity, gender identification, body type, ability, and location so Washingtonian youth can see themselves in the campaign. Through multiple iterations of these ads, the core elements of You Can have remained consistent over the last several years, allowing us to build brand equity with our audience, who recognize and regularly engage with You Can content. An evaluation revealed youth found the messages believable and relatable, with 61% saying that the messaging made them less likely to use marijuana or made them want to continue to avoid it.

Recently, You Can launched a micro-influencer pilot project to reach youth. Working with DOH and The Idea Marketing, a tailored media contractor reaching Latinx/Hispanic youth who led the project, we developed messaging and brand guidance. Three Washington state-based teen micro-influencers used their platforms and trusted voices for six months to engage their audience with relatable mental health messaging, self-care tips, healthy coping strategies, and cannabis prevention messaging. All influencers either tagged You Can’s social accounts in their posts, used #YouCan within the post copy, or directed to the You Can website. From March 27th – July 19th, 2023, the three influencers posted a combined 29 posts, which garnered 535,064 impressions and 16,594 engagements.