More than just saying no A new anti-drug abuse campaign launched

On Oct. 5, the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey launched a new series of advertisements against drug abuse, ads that will soon appear in unusual places such as on the Hudson Bergen Light Rail and among the vegetables and other food stuff at Kings Supermarkets.

The campaign, which has been developed by Hammerhead Advertising in Hoboken, is an attempt to deal – not so much the concept of street drugs typically portrayed in movies, but to unveil perhaps the greater danger that drugs often are a lot closer to home that parents think.

A shooting gallery – street lingo for a place where junkies shoot up heroin – is redefined in one ad with a picture of kids hanging out in the recreation room at home playing video games, the caption saying “talk to your kids about steroids. Because their friends are.”

A similar ad showed two kids at a computer with a label “meth lab,” and yet another picture showing two girl teens studying in a bedroom which is called a “drug den”

With the popularity of designer drugs and how resourceful kids can be, parents are faced with a frightening challenge when trying to keep kids away from drugs.

Parents are often out of touch with the contemporary dangers, and the campaign by the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey is designed to bring parents up to date.

“We understood this project knowing that it would be challenging, knowing that we would have to be highly creative, engaging and dramatically to the point,” said Mark Rowe, vice president of brand development for Hammerhead.

This includes launching a campaign that will blanket the state through both traditional media outlets and some very unexpected places such as the local supermarket.

Surveys taken show that parents do see messages about drug abuse and are willing to talk to their kids. But often, the new drugs are a mystery to parents, who have an outmoded vision of what they are and how kids get them.

“By placing different ads in locations in store such as in produce or the dairy case, we hoped to get the attention of the parents, and teach them what they don’t know about today’s drugs,” said John Perls of Hammerhead.

The campaign is to the point, designed to show that even kids 12 to 15 are at risk, and to break down the stereotype that drug use is only an urban problem, when it is also a problem in places where parents might not otherwise suspect. One scene for instance shows the front porch of a middle class suburban neighborhood and calls it “a crack house.”

Angelo Valente, executive director of PFDNJ, believes the ads will be effective .

“By using the images and language that they’ve carefully crafted, Hammerhead challenges the audience to face the reality that drug use is both prevalent and dangerous,” said Valente.

“We used two nuggets as the basis for our campaign,” Perls said. “First, parents didn’t have a clue about new designer drugs in their neighborhoods and the schools. Parents know pot and other drugs that they grew up with, but little about ecstasy, inhalants and other new drugs. Second, a lot of parents do not understand just how much influence a kid’s peers have on their kids.”

While the campaign will be launched in weekly and daily newspapers, on transit lines such as the light rail, buses, outdoor advertising, the campaign will also pop up in places most people wouldn’t expect, places like the supermarket where parents frequent.

“This is non-traditional,” Perls said.

But it makes sense, too, because parents often meet and talk in supermarkets, and if the ads are there, they may also get information they need to help guard their kids at home.

“Let’s face it, parents look at expirations dates,” Perls said. “We’re hoping they will look out as carefully for their kids.”

Kings Supermarkets, the lead retailer in this campaign, was an ideal choice since the campaign is focused on suburban parents, who frequently use Kings.

The campaign is expected to continue for about 15 months through the end of 2007

“This is a homegrown effort by the partnership. In the past, this state often took campaigns from other states and the national organization,” Perls said. “We’re hoping other states pick up on this.”


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