Making Summer Safer with High Alert

High Alert
New Zealanders reached
New Zealanders subscribed
increase in branded search queries


High Alert is an initiative aimed at keeping Kiwis up-to-date and informed with alerts about dangerous drugs. Individuals are prompted to subscribe by email in order to receive important updates regarding new drug trends or threats.

High Alert faced challenges due to advertising bans on illicit content. In order to side-step these obstacles that affected both their targeting and messaging, Aro helped High Alert to construct a unique digital strategy which allowed them to build brand exposure, message awareness and exponentially grow their subscriber base.


1. Launch the High Alert brand and generate mission awareness

2. Get subscribers to sign up for drug warning alerts


As 2020 unfolded and New Zealanders resumed a sense of pre-COVID normality, the high season for drug related harm fast approached with the hugely anticipated return of Summer festivals.

This summer also had the added risk factor of potential COVID-induced changes to drug availability , resulting in an increased risk of adulteration or substitutions.

This situated festival season as a key time to reach Kiwi’s with High Alert.


The success of our social campaign relied on two things: reaching the right audience and engaging their trust in the High Alert brand.

We first had to figure out how to get High Alert’s messaging in front of young festival goers. Using precise geo-targeting, we exclusively delivered ads to the locations where NZ’s major New Years festivals took place. We then utilised demographic targeting to hone in on younger kiwis, who were considered more likely to be at risk of drug-related harm.

Taking into account the fact that many punters would be without a fully charged phone for the duration of the festivals, we timed our delivery so that we could begin reaching users in the days leading up to events as well as throughout.

The campaign messaging itself was simple: promote safer partying by staying informed. Although, in order to communicate this we had to comply with Facebook’s advertising guidelines by avoiding any direct drug references. As a result, we used more colloquial terms (e.g. tabs or molly), which in turn fed into our desired peer-to-peer conversational tone.

As a new initiative, building a sense of trust and reputation for High Alert was key to gaining success with a young audience. We used a playful yet informative brand voice that attracted high levels of post engagement. Aside from working as social proof, this influenced many users to tag their friends in the comments, helping to further promote High Alert’s messaging.

Google Search & Display:

Our paid search strategy was grounded in playing a supporting role for social.

We brought across a similar messaging and targeting approach for display as we did on social. Thinking of our ads like digital billboards, we utilised the reach capabilities of the display network to begin building a strong online brand presence.

The straight-forward approach for advertising High Alert on Google search would have been to target search queries related to drug safety information. 

However, like Facebook, Google’s advertising policies prohibit ads for illicit substances, as well as products or services that appear to facilitate their use. This meant we couldn’t use drug related words in both our ad copy or our target search terms.

So, we had to get creative.

We pivoted away from the typical use of Google ads as a means to reach high intent users and towards a more unconventional search strategy.

Drawing inspiration from our social and display campaigns, we served search ads to those looking for information about upcoming festivals (e.g. rnv line up or bay dreams tickets).

To ensure we didn’t get flagged for low ad relevance, we used tongue-in-cheek copy that included the specific festival names. We also worked with High Alert to create a custom landing page, which included keywords and even links out to the real festival lineup pages for a prize user journey.


"The Aro Digital team really helped us hit the ground running and get our digital marketing approach right from the very start. The team always went above and beyond to support us and we really valued their expertise and professionalism. The campaign was a huge success and we’re looking forward to doing more great work with Aro in the future."

Jeannetta Vermeulen

Online Channels Manager

Case Studies