Truth Initiative successfully delivers vaping prevention messages to young adults thanks to its scalable site capacity

Challenge

To find a way to deploy faster and more frequently, supporting the continuous evolution and delivery of the anti-nicotine messaging at scale

Solution

Quick and easy capacity site scaling to respond to sudden upsurges in web traffic from viral education campaigns

Results
  • Improved ease of deployment with code branches able to be pushed independently as needed
  • Improved ease of spinning up an environment for each feature branch
  • Drupal support for Varnish caching enabled by Fastly CDN
  • Ability to quickly configure multiple services made it possible to run Drupal 8 on PHP and MySQL, powered by a separate backend application using Symfony and MongoDB
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Truth Initiative® is spreading the truth about smoking, vaping, and nicotine. The nonprofit, founded after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, gives teens and young adults the facts about the addictive properties of nicotine and how the tobacco industry continues to target younger users with its marketing.

Several of the initiative’s recent education campaigns tapped into the viral influence of TikTok, inviting young people to create short videos about the creative ways they’ve quit vaping. These campaigns inspired user-created videos and attracted more than 13.1 billion views. They also inspired a rush of visitors to the nonprofit’s two websites: truthinitiative.org and thetruth.com. To guarantee that the sites, both built with Drupal 8, could adapt their capacity to the most viral of promotional successes, Truth Initiative chose Platform.sh as their end-to-end web platform provider.

How to handle one million hits

“When we launch our campaigns,” says Truth Initiative’s Derrick Butts, chief information and cybersecurity officer, “our network infrastructure needs to be able to handle the jump in web traffic. We once debuted a campaign, and our websites received millions of hits over the following 24 hours. There’s a feeling of excitement with that kind of success, but also a feeling of concern, wondering if our site would be able to sustain greater traffic loads over a short period of time. So we started looking into how we could do things better.”

Butts went in search of a platform provider that would enable Truth Initiative to scale up site capacity easily and quickly at the launch of a campaign. He began to look closely at Platform.sh after having a chance to speak to some of the company’s clients. The more he looked, the more he liked.

Platform.sh has greatly improved the way we deploy our code branches and spin up our environments. When we're looking at different locations to stage production-type sites, Platform.sh allows us to migrate between them seamlessly as a native platform.

“The fact that Platform.sh is a software-based Platform-as-a-Service offers a lot of advantages,” Butts says. One of the advantages he recognized was the tight integration Platform.sh has with code repositories like GitLab. Butts realized that capability would enable Truth Initiative to streamline their configuration and deployment processes.

“Platform.sh has greatly improved the way we deploy our code branches and spin up our environments,” says Butts. “When we’re looking at different locations to stage production-type sites, Platform.sh allows us to migrate between them seamlessly as a native platform.”

Free Fastly feels fine

As a nonprofit, Truth Initiative also needed a provider that packed a lot of value into their offering. Seeing that the Platform.sh offering included the Fastly CDN caught Butts’ attention. “A lot of providers only offer CDN tools and services as add-ons,” he says. “So the fact that Platform.sh includes it as part of their service offering makes it more cost-effective. But also, the CDN is integrated into the services. As I migrate from one platform to another, it gives me less things to have to worry about and manage.”

Through Fastly, Truth Initiative can take advantage of Drupal support for Varnish caching. “We were able to run Drupal 8 on a PHP container with MySQL, and still be able to pull from a separate backend API built with Symfony and MongoDB,” explains Butts. “Platform.sh made that all easier since they already had that mapped out in their offering to add on services like that.”

Did you know?

  • 19.6% of high school students are current e-cigarette users
  • 4.7% of middle school students are current e-cigarette users
  • Nearly 3 million youth use flavored e-cigarettes
  • From 2019 to 2020, the proportion of e-cigarette users using flavored e-cigarettes increased from 68.8% to 82.9%
Source: National Youth Tobacco Survey 2020

Keeping the message fresh and the website fast

Truth Initiative migrated to Platform.sh in the summer of 2020. Butts couldn’t have been happier with how smoothly it went. “Platform.sh had a pretty thorough approach to the migration,” he explains. “They talked through every detail with us, they tested the backend, and they constantly double-checked with our developers to make sure that things were in place. We completely avoided the typical deployment disruptions we’d experienced with other platforms and methods.”

Platform.sh had a pretty thorough approach to the migration. They talked through every detail with us, they tested the backend, and they constantly double-checked with our developers to make sure that things were in place. We completely avoided the typical deployment disruptions we’d experienced with other platforms and methods.

Now that everything has been migrated, Butts and his team are excited to take advantage of the steady stream of new technologies flowing out of Platform.sh. As Truth Initiative draws up its website roadmap for the next few years, they’re keeping the Platform.sh upgrade rollout schedule nearby. The foundation wants to be able to use every tool at its disposal to keep teenagers out of the nicotine industry’s grip.

“According to a survey we released in January 2021, 60 percent of current e-cigarette users between the ages of 15 and 24 want to quit vaping within the year,” says Butts. “For us to get and keep young people’s attention, our message has to constantly evolve. That’s why it’s important for us to have a platform that’s going to constantly evolve as well.”