The Teen Anti-Drug Campaign

Problem

During the 1980s, drug use was perceived to be a normal, recreational, socially accepted, or socially tolerated behavior.(1) Illegal drugs were being used by adolescents at extraordinarily high levels. In fact, in 1981, two-thirds of American teenagers had used an illegal drug by the time they left high school.(2)

Response

The Partnership developed a Teen Anti-Drug Campaign using a two-pronged creative strategy to change attitudes and reduce the demand for illegal drugs:

  • to de-glamorize drug use and users and
  • to increase the perception of risk of using drugs

A team of five agencies created Partnership ads for the teen-targeted campaign – Backer Spielvogel Bates (NY), Earle Palmer Brown (Philadelphia), Joy Radio (NY), DDB Needham Worldwide (NY) and Foote, Cone & Belding (Chicago).

Outcomes

According to The Partnership’s national research(3), 62 percent of teens in 1992 strongly felt that drugs negatively impact school, work and athletic performance – an increase of 20 percent since 1987, the year The Partnership launched its first teen anti-drug ad.

In addition, the ads had a “de-glamorizing” effect on teens; in 1987, 39 percent strongly agreed that people on drugs act stupidly. By 1992, it was up to 52 percent. Also, the percentage of teens who agree strongly with the statement, “Taking drugs scares me” significantly increased from 1987 to 1992 (39 percent to 51 percent).

Survey findings revealed even stronger anti-drug attitudes among those exposed frequently (defined as recalling one or more anti-drug messages a week) to drug education advertising. Teens exposed frequently to anti-drug ads said they were less likely to use drugs than those less frequently exposed to the ads.

Between 1987 and 1992, annual cocaine use among teens dropped 28 percent and annual use of marijuana dropped 22 percent.

In 1993, the New York chapter of the American Marketing Association presented The Partnership with advertising’s most coveted award – the Gold “EFFIE” – for the effectiveness of its national, anti-drug public service advertising campaign.

TV Commercials:

Pool Party

Party

Radio Ad:

Lanie’s Wedding

(1) Hedrick, Thomas A., Jr., President of The Partnership, press release, June 16, 1993.
(2) Johnston, L.D., O’Malley, P.M., Bachman, J.G. (2003).  Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2002. (NIH Publication No. 03-5374). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, p.6.
(3) The Partnership AttitudeTracking Study, Roper ASW Worldwide

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

"The new generation of talent is not hierarchical, and does not think of their job as work."
— Gord McLean, President and CEO at Advertising Educational Foundation