White House Says Ads Played Part in Drug-Use Decline

WASHINGTON, D.C. White House officials attributed an 11 percent decline in drug use by teenagers in part to its anti-drug media campaign, which they said has increased teen awareness about the risks of using drugs.

“Fewer teens are using drugs because of the deliberate and serious messages they have received about the dangers of drugs from their parents, leaders, and prevention efforts like our National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign,” said White House drug czar John Walters in a statement.

The “Monitoring the Future” study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that marijuana use declined 11 percent, from 16.6 percent in 2001 to less than 15 percent this year. Use of the drug ecstasy and LSD also dropped.

The study, which is conducted every two years, does not specifically measure the effectiveness of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s anti-drug media campaign. Instead, it measures teen attitudes about drugs as well as drug use.

Lloyd Johnston, the study’s lead investigator, however, said officials were drawing a “logical conclusion” that the anti-drug media campaign played a role in declining drug use because the teens interviewed felt the ads had influenced them. “It doesn’t prove the case,” Johnston said, “but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence.”

The White House anti-drug media campaign began in 1998. WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather, New York, the campaign’s lead agency, handles both media buying and some creative duties on the account. Other creative is done by a roster of 40 shops that work through the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Leo Burnett, Chicago; Euro RSCG, New York; and DDB, Los Angeles have all done recent work for the campaign.

Ogilvy prepared a controversial series of ads that have linked drug use to terrorism, which debuted during the 2002 Super Bowl.

“The work we have done over time is clearly evidenced in the [study’s] results,” said David McConnaughey, Ogilvy’s account director for the campaign.