The spot, from Waring & LaRosa, New York, is part of a new public service campaign breaking today from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America that communicates an anti-drug message through positive reinforcement.
"We wanted to take a very specific tack that gives kids positive images of themselves," said Steve Dnistrian, partnership VP-associate director. "Research says there is a big need to do this-we have to remind kids that they are good."
Three similar 30-second spots created by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., weave together spiritual and hip-hop music, artistic footage of black teen-agers and mystical incantations of empowering verse.
Perhaps, though, the most moving ad in the campaign features a little boy named Kevin Scott, who has to hop fences, sprint through alleys and dash across streets to avoid the dangers of the "dealers who don't take no for an answer." Created by Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein, San Francisco, the 30-second spot has become a silent home run for the partnership.
"We've had focus groups across the country, and in Philadelphia and Miami, among others, there has been a real kid named Kevin Scott in the group," Mr. Dnistrian said. "Kids really relate to this spot, and they feel like they're not alone in their fear-it hits home to a lot of people."
Despite past anti-drug campaigns, research released Jan. 31 indicates drug use among high school seniors rose 3.9 percentage points in 1993. The annual University of Michigan study found that 31% of 16,300 seniors surveyed across the country had used an illicit drug in the past year.
Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator of the Michigan research project, said he believes the partnership and the media play a very important role in establishing an anti-drug attitude.
"A few years ago, research showed that recalled exposure and credibility of partnership ads were very high among kids," Mr. Johnston said. "The youngsters felt the ads had an influence on themselves and their friends, and made them less likely to use drugs."
However, Mr. Johnston said he feels the balance of messages kids are getting from the media today has shifted the attitude from anti-drug to acceptance.
"There are fewer messages out there about the dangers of drugs; not only has coverage subsided considerably, but it is very rare for me to see a partnership ad on prime time," he said. "The partnership ads just aren't getting the kind of visibility or placement they deserve."
Mr. Dnistrian also said he believes there is a direct correlation between media weight and drug use.
"Once kids don't fear the dangers of drugs, or perceive them as socially acceptable, there's an increase in usage," he said. "And anti-drug attitudes soften as media weight decreases."
Media used for partnership spots is down 20% over the past two years, Mr. Dnistrian said. Two years ago, partnership campaigns were allotted about $1 million a day in media usage, but that number has since decreased to $800,000.
"We really need to get more media behind us, or the message won't get through," Mr. Dnistrian said.