ONDCP Ads Praised as US Teen Drug Use Drops

23 December 2003

Latest figures show a decline in drug use by US teens -- and government officials believe an ad campaign can take partial credit.

Authors of the biennial Monitoring the Future study of teenagers' attitudes towards narcotics believe the anti-drugs advertising from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has contributed to an 11% drop in drug use.

The research, conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, found that 15% of teenagers used marijuana, down from 16.6% in the 2001 study. Usage rates of LSD and ecstasy were also down.

"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," declared White House anti-drug supremo John Walters.

Although the study is not designed to assess the effectiveness of the ONDCP campaign, its lead researcher Lloyd Johnston argues that attributing the fall in drug use to the ads was a "logical conclusion". Many of the teenagers interviewed for the study cited the campaign as an influence.

The ONDCP has been financing anti-drugs advertising since 1998. Media duties are the responsibility of Ogilvy & Mather in New York, which also handles some creative (the rest is shared between a roster of 40 shops, organised through the Partnership for a Drug Free America).

"The work we have done over time is clearly evidenced in the [study's] results," declared David McConnaughey, O&M's account director for the ONDCP work.

Despite this success, the agency's tenure of the account has not been without controversy. Last year it was dramatically reappointed despite claims it had previously overcharged the ONDCP, and lawmakers have been calling for the duties to be reassigned ever since. Next year it must repitch for the account as the client switches to a performance-based contract [WAMN: 28-Nov-03].

Data sourced from: AdWeek.com; additional content by WARC staff