Remember that old fried egg ad with its warning, "This is your brain on drugs"? It's going big time this year, with the federal government spending $195 million - rivaling the advertising campaigns of American Express, Nike or Sprint - to plaster the airwaves with anti-drug messages.
The ad campaign, a five-year project being given a bipartisan send-off today in Atlanta by President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, could turn into a $1 billion government investment in stopping teen drug use."This is an effort to talk to a generation that started to get the wrong message," said retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who heads Clinton's drug control policy office. In a 1997 national survey, half of high school seniors and nearly one-third of eighth-graders reported using illegal drugs at least once.
Today's unveiling promised a brief cease-fire in the sharp election-year squabbling between Clinton and Republican leaders on everything from drugs to foreign policy. Gingrich, R-Ga., who rearranged his schedule to be at the president's side on his own Atlanta turf, said congressional Republicans were committed to funding the campaign for its full five-year run.
"It's important first of all to send a signal to young people that whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, you're committed to getting across the message that drugs are dangerous. This is a national message, not a political message," the speaker said Wednesday.
"The level of support among Republicans in the Congress is strong and growing. We want to break the back of the drug culture over the next five years," he said.
Politics would be on only a temporary hold. From Thursday's ceremonies in the Georgia World Congress Center, Gingrich was headed to a Republican fund-raiser in New York, Clinton to Democratic events in Atlanta and Miami that would raise $1.3 million for the effort to oust the GOP from control of Congress. The president also was stopping in Daytona Beach, Fla., to meet with those who have been fighting the state's raging wildfires.
Beginning Thursday in 75 major newspapers and on the four major TV networks tonight, parents and a target youth audience between the ages of 9 and 18 will be bombarded by anti-drug ads produced gratis by some of Madison Avenue's premier ad agencies. The goal is to hit the average family least four times a week either through TV, radio, newspapers, billboards or the Internet.
One of the spots is a spin-off of the fried egg ad popularized during the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's 11-year campaign, with its Reagan-era slogan "Just Say No." The updated version, meant to dramatize the effects of heroin use, shows a Winona Ryder look-alike bust up an egg and her whole kitchen with a frying pan.