Joints, Bongs and Unicorns

The Soup

Courtesy of

Well, it is no mystery kids do drugs. It is a mystery how do persuade them to stop.

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign spends millions of dollars producing commercials and other advertisements to warn kids of the dangers of drugs through their Above the Influence campaign. The campaign has done some great commercials, and reports that the journal Prevention Science proved their campaign had some effectiveness at reducing teenage marijuana use. Yet, somehow I feel like Joel McHale did an equally well, if not better, job of inadvertently convincing kids to “just say No!”

Anti-drug advertising is hard. First of all, you have to make sure the kids see it, and then get them to actually listen to the message. With more young adults skipping TV programs’ actual air time and watching on the Internet, they often bypass television ads. Even putting that aside, its difficult to make sure a young adult is paying attention to the full 30 seconds it takes for an Above the Influence commercial to effectively get out its message.

Sadly, even though I doubt it was sponsored, the short clip on The Soup probably did a much better job reaching teens and relaying an anti-drug message.

Firstly, the clip was during the actual program, not a commercial. This type of placed advertising works much better with teenagers than traditional commercial segments because the television content distracts the viewer from feeling like they are trying to be persuaded, often called the Entertainment Overcoming Resistance Model. The clip is also from the TV program 90210, a regularly watched and popular teenage program. It makes the clip much more accessible.

Secondly, it was funny! It makes the viewer laugh before they even realize what they’re laughing about. Someone watching the clip might laugh before they realize that they’re laughing at something they might have done. It sounds cruel, but inadvertently latching onto a kids’ insecurities might be the most powerful way to have them stop using drugs. In a way, many of the Above the Influence commercials try to do the same thing, but often in a more overt way and, therefore, less effective way.

The segment on Joel McHale’s show offers a perfect opportunity for the Above the Influence campaign to enhance its message. Why not sponsor the segment to lengthen it, include some more biting commentary from Joel about how marijuana screws students up in school. A personal, but hilarious, story from Joel’s past could be used as another persuasive element. Many ways to enhance the persuasive anti-drug message exist.

It may sound controversial, but a humorous anti-drug message could reach an audience much better than a preachy, overdone commercial. Teens need to be reached more differently than traditional ad campaigns to truly make a message stick, and humorous programs provide the perfect opportunity.



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