"This is your brain on drugs," he then intones over sizzling sounds.
So goes the brilliant public service announcement voluntarily created by the former Keye/Donna/Pearlstein, Los Angeles, for the Media Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The PSA, which ran from 1987 through 1990, was so memorable it made Video Storyboard Test's list of Outstanding Campaigns every year it aired. It, and the other pro bono efforts of ad professionals on behalf of the Partnership, are credited with helping cut illicit drug usage from 22 million households to 12 million in recent years.
The only troubling aspect of this success story is the lack of credit given the industry. Agencies poured more than $10 million into creating the campaign, while media companies donated more than $2 billion in airtime. Yet only one in a hundred Americans has a clue that this national concern is brought to them courtesy of an agency/media coalition.
That suggests that fewer Americans credit our profession for the origins of the campaign than the drug users who actually stopped because of it. And while that's all to the good, it does make one wonder why advertising's image remains down there with used-car dealers.
That Dangerfieldesque lack of respect was confirmed again by a survey we recently did: The American Medical Association was credited six times more than the ad/media industry for supporting the drug-free messages.
The problem is lack of branding. Will McDonald's Corp. ever promote a healthy, fat-free hamburger without expecting a return? Why, then, should the agencies and media be so dismissive about their significant contribution and one of their many claims to respectability?
Partnership Vice Chairman Tom Hedrick admits "this may be a case of lost opportunity for advertising's image."
Advertising could do worse than to pick up on a worthy cause and do a little more for itself. After all, it is advertising that we are supposed to do best.
Dave Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Test. Campaign Clout reports on consumer response to current advertising.