Pubdate: Mon, 05 Feb 2001
Source: Newsweek (US)
Copyright: 2001 Newsweek, Inc.
Contact:  251 West 57th Street, New York, N.Y. 10019
Author: Devin Gordon
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


Know Who Makes All Those Anti-drug Spots? Doesn't Matter: They Work

Feb. 12 issue - 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. "And I've been ferocious in guarding those dollars," says 
outgoing drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey. The ads-created pro bono by a 
roster of 200 firms-reach every child in America approximately eight times 
a week. "The underlying theory is, 'If we can sell a product, why can't we 
unsell one?' " says founding member Allen Rosenshine, director of 
ad-industry titan BBDO Worldwide and chair of the partnership's 
star-studded creative-review board. The key, he says, is to maintain 
credibility: don't mislead, don't exaggerate, or kids will tune you out. 
That'll be critical as the partnership tackles its next challenge: ecstasy. 
Dnistrian admits that the party drug's sudden rise caught the group by 
surprise; now it's racing to come up with a response.

To get there, the partnership's 35-member permanent staff will lean heavily 
on its review board, which makes all creative decisions. "The crown jewel 
of our operation," Dnistrian calls it. "You can't buy this kind of talent. 
If you were IBM or Ford, you'd kill for it." Others would kill to get in 
front of it. For rising stars, pitching to the partnership is the ultimate 
job interview. Says Stanley Becker of Saatchi & Saatchi: "When I see a 
piece of work that's really brilliant, I make a mental note of who did it." 
Kids, meanwhile, make a mental note of what it's saying.

With Ana Figueroa in Los Angeles and Julie Scelfo in New York
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