The Drug Czar’s office has done a fair amount of advertising in the most expensive venue there is – the Superbowl. Hey, why not? It’s not real money – it’s just the taxpayers’ dime.
They started in 2002, just months after 9/11 — looking to capitalize on that sweet deal: fear and terror.
They ran two ads that year: the first, was a listing of prices of items a terrorist might use (specifically including box cutters to make sure the audience would get the connection) with the tag: “If you buy drugs, it might come from you.”
The second, run the same year, was even more offensive, conflating the “harmless fun” of smoking pot with killing judges.
Of course, as we all know, it is prohibition and the drug war that makes drugs profitable to criminals and is more likely to channel funds to terrorists. But it sure is fun for our government to demonize its own citizens.
The ads were met with almost universal derision. Pot smokers suggested a “Buy American” campaign. Arianna Huffington and others developed spoof ads using the still silly, but much more realistic, notion that using gas funds terrorism…
… the ad cuts to different people in their SUVs: “I gassed 40,000 Kurds,” “I helped hijack an airplane,” “I helped blow up a nightclub,” and then in unison: “We did it all by driving to work in our SUVs.”
I think that the extreme nature of the ads (and certainly the ONDCP was going for shock value, particularly in the Superbowl) ultimately negated any effect that they could have. Nobody believed them, except for the hardline drug warriors who were pretty pleased with themselves. (The DEA got on the bandwagon in 2003 with their first exhibit of Target America: Traffickers, Terrorists and You)
The ONDCP tried to get a little more mileage with it in 2003 with this haunted subway trip, but they specifically avoided use of the word “terrorists,” instead talking about the terrible things that drug money does. It was essentially the same concept as the one above, but substituting cartels for terrorists.
It was clear that they had no confidence in that message working (they had been slammed for their ads for a full year at this point), so they partnered it with an ad going in a completely new direction of absurdity: smoking marijuana makes you pregnant!
More ONDCP Superbowl ads available at Spike TV