Veterans of the communications business will remember the TV ad campaign that featured the line “This is your brain on drugs.” An egg frying in a pan was the accompanying visual of an ad that drew so much attention it became a part of almost every comedian’s routine.
A creative approach, attention-grabbing visuals, an oft-repeated message and the resources to communicate the message widely usually add up to a highly successful advertising campaign.
Those elements were all present in the Partnership for a Drug-Free America campaign. Those involved said research showed the campaign had a measurable impact on drug use and attitudes about drugs.
Surveys conducted for the campaign showed 7.8 percent of 13-year-olds had tried marijuana in 1991, compared to 16.3 percent in 1987. More than 47 percent of 17-year-olds had tried the drug in 1991, compared to more than 57 percent in 1987.
Among those age groups, 71 percent believed there was a risk in marijuana use in 1991, compared to 63 percent in 1987. Risks in cocaine use were acknowledged by 69 percent of those in the age groups, up seven percent from 1987.
The creative efforts donated by Madison Avenue agencies were supported by contributors who paid for production costs and media outlets who donated time and space to run the ads. About $365 million in ad time and space was donated annually.
Critics of the campaign said it failed to address nicotine and alcohol use and had little or no impact in poor, urban communities.