Cocaine Unwrapped

‘Cocaine Unwrapped’, a film by Rachel Seifert, premiered in London on Wednesday 16th May. Leo Burnett has collaborated with Dartmouth Films to create a campaign around the issues that Seifert’s film explores.

The objective of the film and Leo Burnett’s campaign is to raise awareness and understanding amongst the British public of how cocaine consumption in the UK has been profoundly damaging South America as a continent.

The campaign, created by Leo Burnett, aims to deliver a bigger impact for Rachel’s film and includes a piece of sound design experiential that transforms the snorting of a line of cocaine in London into an execution somewhere in Mexico, and two impactful 90 second films that precede the showing of the ‘Cocaine Unwrapped’ film, through Grand Central and Stink Films, that highlight the simple equation that “One Line = One Life”.

The first 90 second film, ‘Run for your Life’, takes place on a suburban British street. A large group of South American people are running with terror in their eyes. Inexplicably, they drop dead one after another on the street. The survivors, seeing their fellow runners dropping like flies, pick up their pace. They turn into a house and in through the door of a party. Another runner goes down in a heap, his cap flying off his head as he falls. The people behind step over him and run up the stairs dodging past the fallen. One survivor reaches a bedroom door and pushes it open. As she falls down dead we see a couple of party-goers chopping a line of cocaine and snorting it. A super appears on screen explaining the mysterious deaths: ‘For every line of cocaine snorted in the UK, a life is taken in South America.’ The end line appears ‘You can’t ignore what’s under your nose’ along with the website of the feature film ‘Cocaine Unwrapped’ that this film precedes.

The second 90 second film ‘The Machine’ - from Colombian farmers trying to make a living, to the women forced into becoming drug mules to feed their families, to the innocent by-standers caught in the cross-fire of the warring cartels and militia; a giant machine eats up everyone and everything in its path. It’s an uncaring machine without a conscience or ethics. Its mechanical claws grab hold of all these human lives and drops them into its hopper. Everything is then pounded and mixed up with toxic chemicals and ground into white powder. The powder is then packaged into wraps and stamped on its assembly line. A hand grabs a wrap from the machine and it is sold on the streets of the UK to a woman. In a series of quick cuts the woman snorts the output of the machines productivity, her eyes widen she is filled with the tragedy of the human lives lost to supply her habit. A line appears saying ‘Snort a line of cocaine and you’re fuelling the machine’. A second line appears saying ‘You can’t ignore what’s under your nose’ with the ‘Cocaine Unwrapped’ website address, before we reprise the woman with a dribble of blood coming from her nose.

Leo Burnett also produced electronic invitations to the film premiere that scroll down a white line to a wrap with the event details and hard copy wraps that can be opened to reveal the information. They have also designed the poster and website and will be continuing an on-going relationship to try and help highlight the devastating effect of cocaine use in the UK on people thousands of miles away in South America.

The campaign line ‘You can’t ignore what’s under your nose’ hopes to bring the effects of cocaine on those innocent people a little closer to home.

‘Cocaine Unwrapped’ is a documentary film which explores the impact of the illegal drugs trade across societies in the Americas. The film highlights the destruction and distress that cocaine production, trafficking and trade, and the international community’s self-declared war against it, wreaks upon communities and individuals. The film does not attempt to provide any solutions. It simply seeks to highlight the fact that not only are Western countries, especially the British public, largely responsible for this problem (given their elevated consumption), but the majority of users have no idea as to the bloody and brutal nature of the drugs trade and what purchasing this product implies. Furthermore, as a society we are hugely guilty of ignoring this massive geopolitical issue. By refusing to explore the cocaine question completely and continuing to pursue the 'War on Drugs' we are blindly pursuing a course to which the end is only further death and destruction. As Rachel’s film states “he who wins the war on drugs, will be the most violent and most ruthless party”. So where we are is untenable, but what we are going to do instead has not even been broached.

Some facts:
In Juarez, Mexico, around 15 people a day are executed as part of the cocaine drug chain.

Over 50,000 people are currently reported missing (estimated figures are closer to 100,000) with the disappearances almost exclusively due to the drugs trade.

The Global Cocaine Trade is worth over $85 billion per annum. It is bigger business than Microsoft, Pfizer, Unilever and Boeing.

In the last 5 years, there have been 40,000 deaths in Mexico related to the drugs trade. A large proportion of which are children.

For every line of cocaine snorted in the UK, one innocent life is lost in South America.

Globally, Leo Burnett has a striking track record when it comes to mass behaviour change. It is responsible for creating WWF’s Earth Hour – the largest mass participation event ever, with some 1.8 billion now involved around the world. And in the UK, Leo Burnett London’s drive for enduring behaviour change is no less evident. Until the recent disbanding of the COI, Leo Burnett London was the UK Government’s number one agency by spend, with assignments that included the Think! Campaign for the Department for Transport creating 10 years of road safety campaigns which sought to reduce deaths and injuries caused by drivers under the influence of drink or drugs. With this cause-driven advertising embedded in its expertise, Leo Burnett is attractive to and attracted by the ‘Change for Good’ sector, comprising charities, not for profits, non-governmental organisations. Leo Burnett has channelled this expertise into a new branded entity called Change specifically to work in this area - and the collaboration with Dartmouth Films on a campaign to amplify Rachel Seifert’s ‘Cocaine Unwrapped’ film is one project under the Change umbrella.

17th May 2012


  • Work,
  • Anna Sweet,
  • Change,
  • Guy Moore,
  • Kit Patrick,
  • Pansy Aung,
  • Rachel Woolley,
  • Tony Malcolm