Pubdate: Tue, 02 Apr 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Section C; Page 7; Column 1; Business/Financial Desk
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Author: Allison North Jones
Bookmark: (ONDCP Media Campaign)


WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's new antidrug advertising campaign 
seeks to strike a chord with young people by linking drug use to supporting 
terrorism. But it has struck a nerve with critics who contend the message 
is inappropriate and goes too far.

The criticism, from both traditional foes of White House drug policy and 
individuals who typically support antidrug messages, has produced parodies, 
editorials, debate and even research, although the advertisements have been 
out for only two months.

Proponents call the advertisements powerful and factual. Critics say that 
the link between drug use and terrorism is overreaching wartime propaganda.

John P. Walters, director of the White House drug office, said the idea for 
connecting drug use and terrorism came after the State Department 
identified 28 terrorist organizations and linked nearly half of them to 
drug trafficking.

The campaign began with two 30-second spots by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, 
part of the WPP Group, during Super Bowl XXXVI for about $1.9 million each. 
The commercials are running on at least eight networks or cable channels, 
including NBC, ABC and ESPN, while print ads are in nearly 300 newspapers.

The first 30-second spot, called "I helped," shows a series of young people 
saying things like: "I helped murder families in Colombia -- it was just 
innocent fun." "I helped a bomber get a fake passport -- all the kids do 
it." "I helped blow up buildings -- my life, my body." It ends with the tag 
line: "Drug money supports terror. If you buy drugs, you might, too."

The second 30-second spot, called "AK-47," follows the style of 
MasterCard's "priceless" advertisements by McCann-Erickson Worldwide 
Advertising in New York, a unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies. 
Images of rental cars with trunks full of automatic weapons, a safe house 
and a man buying box cutters -- poignant images for American viewers after 
Sept. 11 -- are flashed on the screen followed by: "Where do terrorists get 
their money? If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you."

Variations of the "I helped" advertisements are running in more than 300 

Critics, including some parents, say that the advertisements' 
negative-niche strategy is unlikely to be effective.

"It's a colossal waste of money," Jane Marcus, a mother of two and member 
of the Parents and Teachers Association in Palo Alto, Calif., said of the 
advertisements. "The argument is fallacious to begin with and plays on 
people's fears -- the two aren't connected," she said of the link between 
terror and drug abuse.

Ethan A. Nadelmann, executive director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which 
favors a strategy based more on treatment, said: "This is a shameless 
exploitation of the war on terror. The government is trying to bolster a 
failing war on drugs by linking it to the war on terrorism." His nonprofit 
group paid $8,000 to parody the ads in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Mr. Walters said that while there was no way to measure the effectiveness 
of the advertisements yet, reaction to the spots had been enough to 
persuade him to extend the campaign through the summer and to add several 
new advertisements.

The drug office used focus groups and consulted with the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration to develop the 
advertisements. They are the most widely tested spots since the media 
campaign began in 1998, when Congress approved nearly $1 billion over five 
years for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, Mr. Walters said.

The campaign's Web site ( includes a list of several 
events, from the detonation of terrorist car bombs in Colombia to the 
murder of Mexican officials with AK-47's, to support the claims of the ads.

The campaign supplants the free advertising that was organized for years by 
the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a coalition of communications and 
advertising professionals.

In the late 1990's, black-and-white advertisements by Keye/Donna/Pearlstein 
featuring the slogan "This is your brain on drugs" illustrated the negative 
effects of illicit drug use on the body with a frying pan and egg. The ads 
played on what the campaign's creators thought would be a desire by young 
people to have healthy bodies, a notion that may not have been effective.

"There's always been a problem, especially with teenagers, that they're not 
as sensitive to personal physical harm or risk as people at other ages," 
Mr. Walters said.

Now the strategy is to play on pride and ideals rather than personal 
health. "They're idealistic, they care about what the world is going to be 
like for them, they care about what they stand for in the world as they 
become adults," Mr. Walters said.

The National Survey of Parents and Youth, a report commissioned by the drug 
office and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is monitoring the 
effectiveness of the campaign. Westat Inc. and the Annenberg School for 
Communication at the University of Pennsylvania are conducting the study.

Robert C. Hornik, a professor at the Annenberg School, said the study has 
generally found that people recall antidrug ads based more on the number of 
times they see them rather than the messages the ads actually contain.

Some youth education and development professionals see the value of such 
advertisements that deviate from a more traditional and positive message.

"This presents and brings together the connection between substance abuse 
and other social problems," said Sue Stepleton, president and chief 
executive of Parents as Teachers National Center Inc. in St. Louis. The 
organization develops family support and education programs for parents.
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