ONDCP Gives Teens the Final Word in Campaign

With the question “What’s your anti-drug?” as the tagline, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy this week kicks off a $20 million campaign and contest, inviting teenagers to create their own messages about what keeps them off drugs. Winning submissions (the contest ends in October) will be used in a second effort breaking in November.

Ogilvy & Mather, ONDCP’s lead agency, working with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, created the first ads. They will appear in print and air on broadcast and cable TV starting Sept. 1.

Merkley Newman Harty in New York will prepare five or six TV spots for the second phase, which uses animation and the teens’ input.

Ogilvy’s ads ask teens what positive things keep them away from drugs. “My cat’s name is Sassy,” a teen says in one spot. “Sassy loves me.” The word “love” shows up in the ad as the answer.

The ONDCP in Washington, D.C., is halfway through a five-year, $1 billion effort to stop children from using drugs. “This is the most integrated, coordinated and most expensive thing we have done so far,” said ONDCP senior advisor Alan Levitt.

The client learned that the phrase “The anti-drug,” launched last year to raise drug awareness among parents, did not work for teens.

“It felt authoritarian,” said Johanna Shapira, an Ogilvy senior account planner. “We decided to let them fill in the blank.” The strategy now is to make the tagline less of a directive to teens.