Magazine article Newsweek

The War on Drugs Goes to the Air: Know Who Makes All Those Anti-Drug Spots? Doesn't Matter: They Work

Magazine article Newsweek

The War on Drugs Goes to the Air: Know Who Makes All Those Anti-Drug Spots? Doesn't Matter: They Work

Article excerpt

Anybody who's turned on a television in the past 14 years has seen the work of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Remember these? A girl jackknifes off a diving board into an empty pool. Another bashes a kitchen to smithereens with a cast-iron pan. And, of course, a man fries an egg on a stove and explains--all together now--that this is your brain on drugs. And yet, if you ask parents and kids just who exactly the Partnership is, most of them say... nothing. "The usual response is 'Don't know'," says executive vice president Steve Dnistrian, smiling. "That's intentional. We don't bother with brand identity. The message is our brand."

The message is also hitting its mark. A report released last week by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that anti-marijuana advertising has helped cut teen use by 26.7 percent. Earlier studies by the University of Michigan, New York University and Johns Hopkins each concluded that anti-drug messages have significantly reduced usage among children in every age group. The partnership does have its naysayers--new Attorney General John Ashcroft, for one, believes the campaign is a waste of federal money--but the research doesn't help their case. Says Lloyd Johnston of Michigan's Institute for Social Research: "The kids we studied were actually willing to admit that something had influenced them. I was amazed."

The partnership isn't so surprised. Launched in 1986 by a handful of the advertising industry's finest minds, the nonprofit is in the midst of a five-year, $1 billion joint venture with the Office of National Drug Control Policy. …

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