The War on Drugs and Advertising

Children and the War on Drugs

In my Consumer Behavior lecture this past week, we watched old advertisements cautioning children and teenagers from trying or using drugs. While the scare tactic was an obvious theme, we noticed that some of the other advertising messages were very misleading or that they were trying to connect dots between things that were not directly related, such as the war on drugs and terrorism. Likewise, the use of certain drugs has changed drastically over the last 20 years, particularly marijuana. It is now legal to smoke marijuana in some states, and other states still allow the use of it for medical purposes, making it a nationally-known substance that helps alleviate pain or discomfort. In this post, I will describe advertising ideas that I would use to target teenagers and young adults in today’s time from trying drugs.

First came Mary Jane…

In the campaign combating the War on Drugs, I would attempt to inform (notice not scare) the consumer of how their body reacts when on drugs. The commercial can showcase synapses in the brain, and how they either slow down or over-accelerate from the substances being used. The “brain slideshow” could begin with substances like marijuana and transition into the more dangerous, life-threatening drugs. Likewise, I would show hard numbers explaining how many brain cells are dying or how many endorphins and other chemicals are being released compared to the natural and healthy amount next to the moving image of the brain transformation.

Since most young people today are concerned with health and fitness, we can explain how using drugs affects your body in unhealthy ways that may cause permanent damage not only to your insides but also to your outsides. While marijuana may not be a drug some people consider as harmful or dangerous, we can show how smoking it changes your chemical balance and thus affects your external actions, such as driving, cooking, or watching after children.

In addition, I noticed that the majority of the older ads targeted the individual being affected, but not the people surrounding the individual being affected. If we really wanted to “scare” people away from using drugs, we can show children or young brothers and sisters picking up and ingesting these substances, or we might show children living in poverty due to negligence of drug-abusing parents. These ads might get a better response as they feature “loved ones” instead of the individual being the most hurt or affected by drugs.

Do you have any ideas or creative messages for building a campaign against using drugs? If so, comment below and share your thoughts!

Tune-in next week for the latest discussion on consumer behavior and advertising.

Image: Kelly Short