Scare Tactics in Advertising

When looking at advertising geared at teens and young adults, the main tactic consist of “Look how cool our product is!” when it comes to a commercial for food, drinks, clothes, music, movies, etc. However, when it comes to anti-drug ads, the main motivation for an ad is, “Look how bad your life could get if you do this!”

The threatening nature of these ads decreases the effectiveness. Teens start to joke about the repercussions of drug use and take the subject lightly.

Meth. It’s a scary word in itself. It’s an easily accessible drug made from dangerous household objects that are extremely harmful. Most teens don’t go near the drug. The Montana Meth Project originally started a campaign focused on reducing the use of meth in teenagers and has now expanded to 7 additional states. Their use of extreme and graphic images showing the deteriartion of a teenager on meth has gained a lot of attention, but not all of it is good.

The first time I saw this ad, I was so disturbed and uncomfortable. But I had to keep watching more. The ads are so disturbing, its honestly like a car wreck that you just can’t force yourself to look away from.

This ad is a little softer and more emotionally driven. I feel more pity for the girl, rather than scared for her.

But then again, this ad is terrifying. Imagine seeing this late at night, home alone. Sca-ry.

To see more of the Montana Meth Project, visit their website here.

The effectiveness of the ads at reducing meth use is still undetermined. Different statistics have been reported. Some say the have raised awareness of the effects of the drug but also increased use of the drug.

Other campaigns like Above the Influence, also use the same over-dramatic scenario of kids using drugs and their life falling to pieces. They have also experienced the same lack of effectiveness with their campaign.

Even in Britain the use of scare tactics in advertising seems to be popular when targeting teens. In this commercial which warns against texting and driving, the graphic images are disturbing to many viewers.

Are these ads really making an impact on teens? Or are the over-dramatic images making kids roll their eyes with disdain? I know that I find these ads intriguing, but I don’t know if they realistically portray the harmful effects of drug use. Often times, adults will lecture their children to practice safe sex, stay away from drugs, and don’t drink until you are 21. However, many teens live by the phrase, “Kids will be kids.” I’ve always been pretty level-headed and realistic with how harmful these things can be, but I can’t really agree with the graphic nature of the ads.

The question is how to reach teenagers without making them laugh at a sad attempt to capture their attention. As sad as this sounds, I’m not even sure how to do that. I think using humor to combat the situation may be more effective than having a serious tone in the ads. Teenagers don’t want to be brought down, that’s why they do drugs in the first place. Maybe dropping the melodramatic imagery will give the ads a chance to even impact the psyche of teens.

A parody of some of the Above the Influence commercials done by College Humor.

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