“Fight Methamphetamine With Action, Not Ads,” Urges Levit

September 23, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Our nation’s latest drug epidemic has infected every state, city, and town. Methamphetamine use is rampant with no sign of easing, making it the subject of the next ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) campaign. If this campaign follows the same strategy its predecessors, meth use will continue to increase. “Previous anti-drug campaigns such as ‘This is your brain…’ and ‘Just Say No,’ were memorable but ineffective,” according to Partners & Levit’s managing partner, Mark Levit.

Advertising is used to create awareness or elicit a behavior, like trying a new product. Anti-drug campaigns have been unsuccessful because they tell the audience not to do something. Advertising is effective in encouraging or sustaining behaviors, not discouraging them. That’s only the beginning of the problem.

Research has indicated such advertisements arouse curiosity about the very drugs the advertiser warns against. “Viewers that have had no history of drug use nor inclination to use, are being introduced to drugs by public service announcements. The Feds don’t take into account the rebelliousness of youth. It’s like being tempted with forbidden fruit,” said Levit.

The government has options other than advertising. “A grassroots campaign, much like the Truth.com campaign against tobacco, which was a huge success, may help curb the problem. All marketing professionals know the best way to communicate a message to young people is through buzz marketing. A network of peers with social appeal to inform youngsters of the dangers of methamphetamine would serve to discourage drug use,” Levit added.

Meth use is unlike any other drug epidemic this country has seen; it’s not smuggled into our borders, it’s manufactured in our homes. Meth can easily be made from common over the counter cold and allergy medications, making the drug highly accessible. Clandestine laboratories turn these medications into a powerful and addictive central nervous stimulant.

In a span of five years, the ONDCP has spent $929 million of taxpayer dollars on anti-drug advertising, with no results. John Walters, drug czar of the ONDCP admitted in a 2002 Wall Street Journal interview, “This campaign isn’t reducing drug use… it hasn’t had an effect on young people’s abuse.” Periodic reviews and pre-testing have proven their ineffectiveness, yet they’ve still aired.

Tackling a drug problem like meth will never be an easy task and creating awareness through advertising is just that—creating awareness; making the problem known but not delivering a solution. The Feds should take heed and spend the drug budget in ways that would reduce the problem, perhaps tougher drug laws for the traffickers including enforcement and peer networks for prevention. “Taxpayer money should be used for programs that work, especially when it comes to drug prevention. Problems afflicting youth are problems of the nation, not just a segregated community. They’re the future and we should invest in them,” Levit concluded.

Partners & Levit Inc. is an aggressive New York advertising agency. Clients include UnitedHealth Group, GE Commercial Finance, and Procter & Gamble. The agency's heritage dates from 1981. For more information about Partners & Levit, visit www.partnerslevit.com or call 212-696-1200.