Feds' Anti-Drug Ads Cost Almost $2 Billion

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jun 30, 2002.

  1. By Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
    Source: NewsMax.com

    In the past five years the federal government has spent nearly $2 billion in anti-drug ads, with apparently no effect in diminishing illegal substance use. And a recent study suggests that the ads may have actually increased drug use among the young.
    But now the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) wants still more money from Congress -- to begin a new ad campaign linking drug use to the war on terrorism.

    According to the new ONDCP ads, smoking weed will not only fry your brain but abets world terrorism as well.

    John Walters, director of the White House's ONDCP, says the new, stronger message is just the latest installment in ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, an effort designed to educate and empower youth to reject "recreational" drug abuse.

    Created in 1998 with the bipartisan support of Congress and the president, the campaign has been recently the subject of increased congressional angst since Walters became its biggest advocate and strongest critic.

    Ineffective, Expensive, but ...

    Walters has described the government's five-year ad campaign as ineffective, but at the same time wants Congress to continue funding the $1.8 billion taxpayer money pit.

    Walters based his criticism on a recent survey of the effectiveness of the ads, which indicated that the current round of media blitz has failed to discourage teens from abusing drugs – and in some cases may be associated with increasing drug abuse among frequent viewers.

    The drug czar's pitch to Congress: Just say no to soft messages from the likes of pop icons Mary J. Blige and the Dixie Chicks; say hello to no-nonsense health risk warnings and blunt advisories linking casual teen drug abuse with the dark anti-American world of terrorism.

    Walters has also assured Congress that his office would quantitatively test new ads before they air, target older teens and focus on marijuana.

    But assurances from Walters aside, Congress wants to schedule hearings on the subject that will allow Walters to amplify his sound bite.

    Accentuating the Negative

    Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said: "He took a report that had mixed results and focused on the negative. He left the impression that anti-drug ads don't work. I think he's wrong. I think they do work.”

    The report in question, completed in October 2001, found that the current campaign, featuring music and sports stars, had no significant effect on young people. On the good side, the study concluded that parents who watched the ads were more likely to talk with their children about drug abuse.

    Walters's office has defended his mixed signals, explaining he wanted to confront the negative findings before others seized on the study as proof such ads are a waste of taxpayer money.

    One of those others seizing on the study: National Organization to Repeal Marijuana Law's Keith Stroup, who called the campaign's failure predictable. "As long as our government insists on pushing ‘reefer madness' instead of honest information, these ads will continue to have a negative impact on teens.”

    The Walters mixed-signal flap is not the first time the ad campaign has garnered the concern of watchdogs in Congress and elsewhere.

    Last summer, one of the campaign's contracts awarded to a top New York advertising agency entered the spotlight with claims of improper billing, poor accounting and lax government oversight.

    Millions of Dollars Wrongfully Billed

    On that occasion, the General Accounting Office found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency shared responsibility for wrongfully billing Uncle Sam millions of dollars.

    Examples: An Ogilvy employee told the GAO she did not work the 485 hours she added to the contract. Another could "not recall” the work he did to justify 402 hours he added to his time sheets.

    Since then the campaign has recovered a measure of credibility on at least a couple of fronts: appealing to American Indians and U.S. writers.

    One reported success story of ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has been a series of broadcast and print ads created by G&G Advertising, an American Indian firm in Albuquerque, N.M.

    Tailored to the Indian culture, the new ads promote positive alternatives to drug abuse.

    "This advertising reflects extensive research and broad input from American Indian public health experts. Working together, we hope to protect the American Indian community from the problems that result from illicit drug use and ensure that parents and youth have access to drug prevention strategies and resources,” said Walters.

    Wooing Writers

    Another highlight reportedly is -- http://www.DrugStory.org -- a Web site that provides writers with a one-stop resource for information about drugs. Hosted by the ONDCP, the site features, among other things:

    Compelling first-person accounts from drug abusers, their friends and relatives, and the professionals who treat them; interviews with law enforcement officials, addiction experts, and specialists in fields including international drug trafficking, sports and doping, and money laundering.

    A gateway for writers to e-mail questions about drugs directly to respected experts in related fields, including doctors, treatment experts, law enforcement officials and federal agents.

    "Writers and journalists play a central role in shaping how our society sees itself,” said Walters.

    Meanwhile, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the nonprofit coalition of media professionals that produces most of the White House's anti-drug ads, maintains that Walters may be missing a salient point.

    Steve Pasierb, the group's executive director, said the old ad campaign was doing just fine until ad spending dropped and producers were directed to create spots that were too subtle.

    "It was working. They changed it. It ain't working,” he said.

    In a letter to former drug policy director Barry McCaffrey, the partnership advised the campaign was providing too many messages in too short a time to be effective.

    Complete Title: Feds' Anti-Drug Ads Cost Almost $2 Billion With No Effect

    Source: NewsMax.com
    Author: Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
    Published: Saturday, June 29, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 NewsMax.com
    Website: http://www.newsmax.com/
    Contact: http://www.newsmax.com/contact.shtml

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    Crossfire Transcripts: Do Drug Ads Work?

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