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July 07, 2007

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Bruce Trachtenberg

You sure this isn't a trailer for the remake of a movie about "Son of Sam?" That would explain a lot.

Stuart Johnson

I’ve seen two other ads that are part of this campaign. http://www.mediacampaign.org/mg/transcripts/tr_stop_looking_tv.html”>One of them also has a talking dog; the other suggests the young dope fiend take pleasure in football instead. There are no corresponding “take pleasure in community service” or “take pleasure in art” ads as far as I know. I guess a “take pleasure in questioning authority and rejecting shallow anti-drug propaganda” ad is completely out of the question.

Julio Marcial

This is another mistake that nonprofits often make--starting with messages that appeal to them, as opposed to developing messages that actually resonate with the target audience. We may be inclined to tell teens to "say no" or to abstain from sex for moral reasons, but these messages may not be nearly as effective in preventing drug use or teen pregnancy as developing messages that are credible and have an immediate relevance to teens' lives.

John Anger

I agree with you, JM. You can imagine the ad agency's pitch: "There are two primary messages in the proposed ad: (1) drugs mess you up ('You're not the same when you smoke'), and (2) drugs mess up your relationships ('I miss my friend'). The ad then leaves you with an assignment, a call to action: How would you convey these messages to your friends who smoke pot? Of course, you've just had a lesson in how to do this from a dog, who acts as a kind of honest broker."

You can imagine the heads nodding in the conference room. They check and re-check their strategic communications manuals. Everybody likes the dog. All is in order.

But assuming that teens know, or know of, people who use drugs occasionally and aren't messed up, how could this ad ever appear to be anything but propaganda of the most shallow kind? And even if these ads have their intended effect, are they ethical? Do the ends (fewer kids messed up by drugs) justify the means (lying like an Administration official)?

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