Fighting the War on Drugs

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Using Advertising to Fight the War on Drugs:
The Power of Social Marketing or a Waste of Money?

Belch & Belch


Purpose/Objective:
Preventing children from trying and using drugs.

Problem:
ONDCP and PDFA couldn’t prove that the money being spent on anti-drug messages were reducing drug use among children and young people.

Key issues within the case:
Between 1987 and 1989, advertisement produced by the Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) relied on scare tactics and stereotypes to deliver their message. •Campaigns were not geared towards youth of varying ages, different settings and of varying ethnicities. •Facts were presented in exaggeration, distorted, and misrepresented causing a lack in credibility. •There was no research or evaluation of the ads to show evidence supporting the success or in relation to the objective. •Government surveys showed an increase in cocaine, LSD and heroin use. •Programs were often seen as inadequate and campaigns were preaching to the choir or insulting the intelligence of the audience. •Created false paradigms by linking terrorism with drugs as opposed to drugs and the illegality of drugs. •Growing tension between ONDCP and PDFA

Ads stirred curiosity of drug use in the min ds of females in the 12-13 age group. •Ads were not pre-tested.

Analysis
During the time that the PDFA was created it is very likely that there was no publication or analysis of the statistics and data associated with children and drug use. This resulted in the distribution of a message based in scare tactics, stereotypes and the PDFA’s inability to target and reach a specific market. Though the PDFA had genuine intentions, the way in which they chose to execute this campaign did not yield the desired outcome. The PDFA failed to relate to their target market through research and analysis caused the facts in the campaign to be presented in exaggeration, distorted and misrepresented. In addition to the scare tactics not proving beneficial in preventing children from using drugs, surprisingly the scare tactic provoked curiosity and had an inverse effect. As a private agency the PDFA did not conduct full and thorough evaluations of their campaign. The PDFA based their defense of the program on research provided by the Gordon S. Black Corporation (annual Partnership attitude) and mall intercepts by high school students. A more effective way to conduct research and provide results relevant and representative of children in the United States would have been to survey within schools. The evaluations done by this organization did not incorporate their entire market. The goal was to stop or prevent drug use in children and adults yet the evaluation of the campaign focused solely on high school students.

Many of the key issues found within this case found such as ads that weren’t pre-tested can be attributed to the lack of hierarchy between both organizations and both operating as one. Operating as a government agency, the ONDCP thought it wise to promote a drug free USA campaign based on the correlations between drugs and terrorism. This program is a true demonstration of pushing political strategy and social opinion.

Recommendation
ONDCP and PDFA need to prove to government officials and investors that the money being spent on anti-drug messages are reducing drug use among children and young adults. In order to prevent more cuts for the campaign the effectiveness of the program must be demonstrated. Creating an effective program producing the results necessary to continue receiving government funding will require the removal of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide advertising agency. Ogilvy & Mather was hired by the ONDCP and there was reason to believe that politics played a hand in their contract renewal. It is recommended that in order to create successful campaigns that deliver substantial results to investors and instill values in children early on, a new public...
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