It was clear many years ago that drugs have won the drug war. But what about the anti-drug commercials, those great cultural icons of our youth? Turns out that the smart money just gave up on that shit.
Ad Age's E.J. Schultz today answers the question: "Dude, remember those ads? With the egg, the broken egg, in the pan, and it was frying, and it was supposed to be your brain? And the one with the dad and he's like 'Where did you learn to do drugs and shit?' and the kid is like 'I learned it by watching YOU, okay?' and the dad is all devastated? All those ads that were on between episodes of Gilligan's Island and shit? What ever happened to those?"
The long answer: anti-drug PSAs on TV have fallen to less than a third of their ubiquitous 1980s levels, due in part to competition from many other do-gooder causes begging TV networks for free airtime. The short answer: the shit was so useless that even the United States government decided to stop paying for it.
The decline stems mostly from a move by Congress to eliminate the media budget for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The office had been funding anti-drug ads aimed at teens since 1998, including a 2002 Super Bowl ad that linked drugs to terrorism, and boasted a media budget of $100 million as recently as 2007. But the government program was constantly under assault by critics who said it was ineffective, and the effort endured a series of budget cuts before it was altogether axed from the 2012 federal budget.