New ‘Above the Influence’ Commercials More Effective Than Drugs Ads of Past

Posted on July 11th, 2013
Posted in Substance Abuse

Anyone who grew up in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s will most likely remember the popular anti-drug commercial which likened a frying egg to a person’s brain on drugs. But according to recent data, rather than being extremely effective, these ads actually made some adolescents curious to see what they might be missing out on.

In effect, the ads did the opposite of what they were intended to do, which was curb drug use. According to an article reported by NPR News, a more productive approach has been to hone campaigns to target rebellious teens instead of the general youth population.

The original clips, which aired in the early 1990s, used fear in an effort to prevent kids from dabbling in drugs. However, the commercials came off a bit cheesy and became more of a laughing stock among young adults than the serious revelation they were meant to be.

Since the 1980s, millions have been poured into U.S. anti-drug campaigns. Researchers have found that more effective than using fear is to appeal to teens’ natural desire to assert their independence. New ads that focus on helping teens find their own individual path in a healthy way have fared much better.

One Ohio study of the new ads showed that adolescents who viewed the “Above the Influence” clips were less inclined to try marijuana. Per the 2011 study, which originated from Ohio State University, after seeing the campaign only 8 percent of teens smoked pot as opposed to 12 percent of their peers who had not viewed the ads.

Carson Wagner, a researcher at Ohio University, sheds some light on why the initial ads might have failed. According to Wagner, teens were experiencing what he refers to as an “information gap,” a rift that we naturally try and close. In the case of the original ads, the message left kids wanting to experience drugs in order to fill that gap.

 

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