Madison Avenue Sells a Strong New Message: Drugs Aren't Cool

National media drug abuse prevention program

RWJF provided support for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) to expand and intensify its national drug education media campaign.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) launched PDFA in 1987 to create a comprehensive advertising campaign to change attitudes about illegal drugs and to cut future demand.

PDFA called on the nation's major media and advertising firms to donate media time, space, and creative talent to develop and run the ads.

Key Results

  • With the first grant (ID# 016072), PDFA doubled the value of donated advertising time and space it secured, from $160 million a year in 1989 to $365 million in 1992.
  • During the second grant (ID# 020895), PDFA continued efforts to get national media support, expanded media use of PDFA messages at the state and local levels, and educated the news media on the continuing threat of illegal drugs.
  • Under the third grant (ID# 022753), PDFA generated approximately $700 million in national and local donated media time over the three-year grant period.
  • In total, over the course of the three grants, PDFA secured more than $2.3 billion in donated advertising time and space for the more than 1,000 advertisements created by the organization's advertising partners.
  • By the end of the third grant, however, levels of donated advertising space and time had begun to drop significantly, threatening the organization's ability to achieve the same magnitude of changes in attitudes and behavior that it had in the past.
  • In 1998, the federal government's Office of National Drug Control Policy began funding a paid media campaign employing PDFA's anti-drug messages.
  • With continued support from RWJF (ID#s 023957, 030248 and 38020), PDFA planned to maintain its role as a non-partisan, independent marketing and advertising communication expert in this private-public partnership.