Drug office targets friends and parents

WASHINGTON: The White House's drug policy office has launched a new PSA and media outreach campaign that targets the parents and friends of young drug users.

WASHINGTON: The White House's drug policy office has launched a new PSA and media outreach campaign that targets the parents and friends of young drug users.

The campaign began during the Super Bowl, with the airing of an ad called "Rewind," which shows how parental intervention could have stopped a teen's drug problem. Based on a mass of quantitative and qualitative research, the initiative's strategy is to recognize that, despite all the warnings, many children do try drugs and to provide possible courses of action to help a friend or child who is abusing drugs.

"In order to stem the tide of peer-to-peer spread, you have to intervene with new users, and you have to shift the conversation from who's initiated drug use to the people around them, to take a look at what's going on with them," said Dr. Andrea Barthwell, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

In addition to the five 30-second ads, the outreach features websites, brochures and posters. Ogilvy & Mather and Foote Cone & Belding designed the ad campaign, while the PR component is being handled by in-house communications staffers at the ONDCP and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and by Fleishman-Hillard, ONDCP's AOR.

Adopting a different tack than prevention messages, the new initiative tries to influence those who exert direct influence over potential drug users.

"Going to this group of kids who have begun to use reduces overall teen drug use, but the way we get to them is different than we've done with prevention messages," said Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "We need to go around them, to the people in their lives who love or have a big influence on them. And that is on one side their parents and on the other side their peers."

Reaching each of these target groups requires different strategies. For teens it means making them understand their responsibility to their friends. For parents, it might mean alleviating fears that because of their own past drug use, cracking down on their kids might make them feel like hypocrites.

Pasierb said the press outreach has a pragmatic mission.

"Through the news media campaigns, we're trying to give more actionable information, in lengths you can't go to in a 30-second spot," he said.

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