Posted: April 5th, 2022

Anti-Drug Campaign for Teens


The Campaign

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At present, marijuana is the most used drug and most frequently available in United States of America. The American youth takes serious dosages of marijuana. At least 60% of the adult population in United States of America was prone to marijuana in 2002. The statistics were prepared in the supervision of The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The website address is .


Social marketing campaigns as well as social awareness programs are imperative to raise and propagate awareness pertaining to excessive drug abuse in United States of America. But in this case, the social campaigners as well as social marketers are armed with effective programs and messages, but remain hesitant to reach the teen audience. It’s a tad bit complicated. Wordsen and Slater (2004) concluded that creating targeted ads regarding marijuana and its abuse through PSA’s tended to be less than successful or even noticeable. The social scientists have portrayed varied messages on televisions but they bit dust in the end. They pointed out that messages which forcefully combined the advertising research and social science research were more prone to attaining success. Moreover, they pointed out that there should be a fine line between threat communication and fear appeals for devising the most seasoned anti-marijuana PSA’s. In relation with the youth, there is a definitive link between ideas and campaigns which are targeted towards high octane addicts.


The war on drugs in spearheaded by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign which operates from the 1% budget designated from the Federal Drug Control Budget. This for Americans is the only serious effort on war against marijuana. The design of the campaign is simple yet worthwhile. The strategy of the campaign is to show repeatedly the anti-marijuana ads. The younger generation is exposed to these anti-marijuana ads constantly instilling the notion to stop taking marijuana for their own well-being. Also, parents, teachers, guardians mentors are folded in the scenario along the way. The campaign seem to be pulling in good numbers and results as indicated by a Congressional testimony which clearly states that TV ads, internet content, and print media reach 90% of the teens all across the American landscape four days in a week. The taxpayers are liable to pay $8 each year (Eddy, 2003).


Identification of the rhetorical settings: the communicator, the audience, the message and purpose


The initial phase of the campaign commenced in January-July 1998 and it comprised of 12 city pilot test of ads targeted at a variety of ethnic and multilingual audiences. Along the way, focus groups were setup audience awareness surveys were commenced. The second phase of the campaign in August 1998 to July 1999 set the campaign in motion with national television, radio, print media and outdoor media attention. Websites for parents, guardians, mentors and community members were launched. Corporation alliances were initiated, community anti-drug alliances were formed. The research work continued as per routine in the local government and state jurisdictions (Eddy, 2003).


In the year 1999, the third phase of campaign was commenced by the ONDCP. This was done after taking in consideration a series of panels featuring health expert, youth behavior change, advertising and social marketing individuals. The target was the younger audience aged between 9 to 18 this time. The special emphasis was of course on teens aged between 11 and 13. These are kids of 7th and 8th grades. The surveys conducted clearly showed that marijuana abuse began at the tender age of 11-13. It was still lukewarm in origins. The primary idea was to stop younger generation from being exposed to ill effects of marijuana. The national anthem was “stopping drug use before it starts” spearheaded by Barry McCaffrey. The third phase began in August 1999 with full force with all plans in place which included alliances with entertainment media, national television, sports organizations, civic, community groups and professional groups (Eddy, 2003).


Scrutinizing the verbal strategies


In February of 2002, the director of ONDP Walters designed a task force to focus on the weaker links of the campaign and the causes which made it weak in outlook. The group identified some major changes in the campaign strategy. Now the target was the slightly older group of teens between age bracket of 14 to 16 who drastically went over to the dark side marijuana offered. Teens were not targeted this time. The ads were supposedly made more cut throat and competitive. Previously, not all ads were tested and proven before airing on national television. Now all these ads were to be given the green signal before airing on national television. The standards were now more cutthroat and competitive. Also, ONDP would be involved in the ad development process (Eddy, 2003).


Another sizeable change came with the Westat’s evaluation in May 2002. Now it was focusing on eliminating the gate drug marijuana as it led to higher forms of drugs. In a hearing Walters said that “It is futile to make effort in reducing the drug abuse as long as the gate drug marijuana isn’t stopped as it’s the basic drug leading to higher forms of drugs. Marijuana was the drug of choice for youth and its widespread usage is worrisome” (U.S. Congress, 2002).


Then a series of controversial began screening at the Super Bowl of 2002 when drug users were portrayed as the supporters of terrorism. They were blamed to be providing blood money. The ads took severe national and public heat as they were cited as false and accusatory. The ads were termed as misleading and failed as an attempt to curb drug use. The critics think along the lines that drug laws instigate drug purchase and that alone can fund the acts of terrorism. The drug users are innocent on all counts. Huge illegal profits are amassed for terrorist acts. The ads were also subjected to controversy as the drug users comprised of teenage population who didn’t fall under the mass drug use bracket and couldn’t account for drug revenues for terrorist acts. The ONDP stopped airing these ads due to friction between PDFA and ONDP. PDFA deemed the ads as way off the mark and accusatory. The ads came to a close in May 2003 (Teinowitz, 2003).


The ONDP Chief of Staff Chris Marston revealed two more changes in March 2003 at a trail in House Committee on Government Reform. Sixty percent of the ads are targeted towards the adults who mentor children and adolescents. The remaining 40% were for the adolescents themselves. From July 2003, the ratio will be turned around. Moreover, Marston believed that next move would be to introduce treatment of drugs in the campaign advertisements. A focus will be made on early intervention. The idea here is to reach out to the youth who embarks on a permanent road to drug usage (Eddy, 2003).


Amassing together the cumulative effort according to Marston, the campaign has turned over a new leaf. It has been revitalized and redirected. In the next evaluation conducted by Westat to take place in 2003 will evaluate the changes and results achieved from 2002 alterations. PDFA will also be evaluating on a short-term basis by coming June. The miscellaneous changes will be evaluated later in time.




Eddy, M. (2003). War on Drugs: The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. CRS Report for Congress, Order Code RS21490


Teinowitz, I. (2003). “Drug Office to Yank Terror Ads in About-Face,” Advertising Age, March 31, 2003, pp. 1, 89.


US Congress (2002). U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Treasury and General Government, Effectiveness of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, special hearing, 107th Cong., 2nd sess., June 19, 2002 (Washington: GPO), p. 14.


Worden, J.K. & Slater, M.D. (2004). Theory and practice in the national youth anti-drug media campaign. Social Marketing Quarterly. 10 (2), 13-27.

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