Research type: 
Desk research
Summary of findings: 

This report summarises a large amount of qualitative work done on the FRANK campaign. It found that:

  • ‘FRANK’ was understood to be a source of information and advice about drugs, and was seen as warm, human, and empathetic. These characteristics made the prospect of contacting FRANK easier for both parents and teenagers, leading many to feel they might make contact in order to obtain information, or to resolve a problem or a worry rather than needing the stimulus of a ‘crisis’ as had been felt to be the case for the National Drugs Helpline in previous research.
  • A factor in establishing ‘FRANK’s’ personality was the brand’s clear point of view about drugs. FRANK seemed to ‘know the score’, in the sense of understanding what drugs and drug culture were about from a ‘real life’ perspective. These attributes were crucial in establishing credibility among teenagers who rejected uninformed dismissal of drugs, whether they themselves were drug users or not. However, it was clear that FRANK was not involved in drugs, and was outside drug culture looking in. Parents can be uneasy over FRANK’s familiarity with drugs, but are reassured once they understand that FRANK wants to help young people to avoid, or stop taking drugs.
  • Both parents and teenagers are likely to feel misunderstood by the other, and to feel that the other is guilty of over reacting! Both groups could relate to the ‘Talk About Drugs’ TV commercial and felt understood and supported by FRANK.
  • FRANK was seen to be clearly ‘anti drugs’ but expressed this point of view via observations, and offering information or food for thought, rather than by overt condemnation or direct instruction to ‘just say no’. Parents recognised from their own experience that teenagers do not respond well to direct pressure on drugs or any ‘difficult’ subject. While they felt that FRANK was more accepting of drugs than they were, they were prepared to forgive this stance (and some of his jokes) because they felt it was an appropriate way to engage with teenagers
  • Humour was felt to be a vital part of FRANK’s personality, and the style of this was felt to be in tune with the type of humour appreciated by teenagers. Parents recognised this to be the case, and therefore the value in taking this approach, even if FRANK’s humour was not to all of their tastes. This sense of humour also seemed to be a useful weapon in undermining positive views about drugs, as it allowed negative comment to be delivered in a non-confrontational way that could also provide a positive starting point for conversations about drugs between parents and teenagers. However, there was a consensus that drugs should never be a laughing matter, and so while there was a positive response to for example, humour around the difficulties that parents have talking to their children about drugs, and to a serious message delivered in a humorous way, it was felt inappropriate to simply ‘play for laughs’. Also, everyone saw heroin and crack use as too serious to be a subject for humour in any form.
  • The name FRANK worked well. On the one hand it had a literal meaning in the sense of ‘straightforward’, ‘open’ and ‘honest’. At the same time the name felt warm, friendly and down to earth. As a result ‘FRANK’ sounded like someone people could talk to. A small minority (parents) queried FRANK, either because it felt like an older name to them, or because, as would be the case with any name, they had personal or idiosyncratic feelings about it. However, the literal interpretation of ‘FRANK’ always resolved these issues and underpinned the choice of name. While FRANK was seen to be a man’s name this was not seen to be a problem by female teenagers, as the overall character of FRANK was not excessively masculine. There was no particular association of ‘FRANK’ with any particular socio economic or racial group.
  • Many vulnerable and marginalized young people already have access to information and support about drugs through professional youth and drugs workers who they trust. However, FRANK is nevertheless still relevant to 'supported' young people because they do envisage using the telephone service and the website possibly in the first instance simply to check if the information is as good as implied in the advertising, but latterly as an additional source of information/support if their initial experience is good. Thus the tone and content of FRANK communications aimed specifically at vulnerable or marginalised groups needs to take account of their special experiences of life and use of drugs
  • The same media channels can be used for targeting most teenagers. The only groups who appear much less likely to be reached by mainstream advertising are those who live rough much of the time (and are often also problematic drug-users) because the concepts of 'leisure activities' and 'media consumption' cannot really be applied to them and their lifestyle.
  • Ambient media in its many forms offers an opportunity to get in touch with teenagers on their own ground. Stickers on lampposts and in bus shelters, posters in pubs and clubs, and in toilets and other such approaches can reach young people in their own environment, and in places where drugs are likely to be encountered and used.

FRANK is an inter-departmental communications campaign which aims to prevent young people from becoming problem drug users, and to provide effective harm reduction support to young drug users. FRANK has been designed to contribute to the delivery of the Government’s key Public Service Agreements (PSAs) in relation to drugs, which include reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs, increasing the number of problem drug users in treatment programmes, and reducing levels of frequent use of drugs (and any use of Class A drugs) among young people under 25 – especially among those defined as Vulnerable Young People (VYPs).

FRANK was researched intensively with all elements of the target audience, and through every stage of its development. An initial phase investigated the overall idea of FRANK, and explored reactions to various potential elements, and later phases explored reactions to various elements of the communications mix in detail.

The idea of FRANK was explored using narrative tapes for television commercials, scripts for radio commercials, and ‘roughs’ for print and ambient materials’.

Research participants: 

The study spoke to young people and parents about the effectiveness of the FRANK campaign

Audience Summary


General population


The full range of ages are not specified, apart from the vulnerable groups

Social Class: 

Not specified


Data collection methodology: 
Focus groups
Other data collection methodology: 

The research was conducted with:

  • Teenagers and their parents were interviewed in qualitative discussion groups. Overall approximately 320 teenagers were interviewed, with varying attitudes to and experiences of drugs and 100 parents.
  • Teenagers were interviewed in small groups of 3-4 friends. Recruiters utilised established contacts to gain introduction to others, and to establish confidence and provide reassurance, as it was felt that a ‘cold’ approach would not have been successful given the subject matter.
  • Parents were also interviewed in small friendship groups of mothers and fathers.
  • Recruitment was undertaken via an extended network of Government departments, local authorities and NGOs. Many of the initial contacts had been involved in the FRANK stakeholder research.
  • Stakeholders were also interviewed in qualitative discussion groups which were held after briefing sessions conducted by the Home Office Drugs Strategy Directorate about the new FRANK strategy and the rationale behind it. Roughly 110 stakeholders were involved in discussion groups, each of which lasted 21/2 hours and respondents were drawn from all parts of England.
  • A specific cross-section of vulnerable or marginalised young people was also included in the consultation process. This sample involved 188 young people aged from 12-23 and included care leavers, young offenders, young homeless living in hostels, school excludees and truants, children of drug takers, refugees and sex workers. It also comprised a wide cross-section of black and minority ethnic groups and mixed races. With the exception of the sex workers, the homeless living in hostels and a minority of refugees, all respondents were still in full-time education. The research took the form of qualitative discussion groups held at a wide range of locations throughout England.
Sample size: 
  • 320 teenagers interviewed in groups of 3-4
  • 100 parents – small friendship groups
  • 110 stakeholders– interviewed in discussion groups
  • 188 marginalised + vulnerable young people – interviewed in discussion groups
Detailed region: 

A range of different locations were used throughout England in order to make the research as representative as possible: metropolitan, urban, provincial, south, midlands, north

Fieldwork dates: 

Not specified

Agree to publish: 



This report is classified as sensitive as it deals with young people.

Research agency: 
COI Number: 
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