Pubdate: Thu, 14 Mar 2002
Source: Rolling Stone (US)
Copyright: 2002 Straight Arrow Publishers Company, L.P.
Author: Mark Boal
Bookmarks: (Terrorism) (ONDCP Media Campaign)


Everybody's Talking About The Anti-Drug Ads That Aired During The Super 
Bowl. Should We Believe Them?

If you are a casual drug user, are you supporting terrorism? That's what 
the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy wants you to think, 
and it drove home that point in dramatic fashion with two commercials aired 
during the Super Bowl that have already become more talked about than the 
famous egg-in-a-frying-pan from the 1980s.

Alan Levitt, the director of the media campaign for the ONDCP, says the new 
campaign isn't talking about Osama bin Laden in particular, even if that's 
how the ads were perceived by Super Bowl viewers. "We have to make a 
distinction between terrorism and terror," says Levitt. "We're not 
necessarily talking about terrorist countries in the Middle East, as much 
as places where there is terror and where the drug trade undermines 
democracy and leads to corruption, as is the case in Mexico and Colombia."

Yet in one of the spots, several teens take turns blaming themselves for 
global terror. "I helped blow up buildings," says one stoner. "I helped a 
bomber get a fake passport," says another. In the other ad, a shot of 
AK-47s is followed by the line "Where do terrorists get their money? If you 
buy drugs ... some of it might come from you."

One early version had to be scratched - it contained shots of Ground Zero 
and of airplanes flying into buildings. "We just couldn't prove that stuff 
had any relationship to drugs," Levitt says.

The finished products were screened by focus groups Of 1,350 teens picked 
at random from malls across America. The White House insists these tests 
statistically prove that the ads are powerful and say that initial research 
showed a "sharp decline" in the intention to use drugs among teenagers. But 
their data is open to different interpretations.

In a written questionnaire, teens were asked to rate their intention to use 
drugs in the next twelve months on a scale of one to four, with four 
representing a "definite" intention and one representing a "definite" 
intention not to. The teens who viewed the AK-47 ad averaged a 1.5 in their 
intention to use, whereas teens in the control group who did not view the 
ads put their likelihood only slighter higher at 1.9 
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