Ah, drugs: the heady highs, the crippling lows, the preachy anti-drug commercials that exist somewhere in between. Together with Cops, anti-drug ads taught us the valuable lesson that drug addiction, if serious enough, will get you on national TV. And as Fear Factor has proven, the generation of men and women who grew up in the '80s will eat a horse's penis to get on TV, so drug addiction doesn't sound like such a bad option, now does it? Here are five classic anti-drug ads, our analysis of what they set out to do and the unintended consequences they actually had.
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5) Poultry Insults Hurt
This commercial follows the basic rule of threes: its 30 seconds long, there are three joints in the dealer' hand and the little kid looks like he's 3 feet tall. Yes, the cut to the classroom full of children is distracting and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come across as total pussies, but its all worth enduring just to see the tiny dude' ridiculously corny putdown, which somehow crushes the marijuana enthusiast' feelings.
Unintended Consequence: First of all, was this really an at-risk demographic? The suburban, 6-year-old, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-viewing audience was really teetering on the brink of drug addiction prior to this ad? In addition to introducing 6-year-olds to the concept of marijuana, the ad teaches them that kids in the know call it "pot," that abstaining from "pot" will make you extremely short while dealing drugs will make you look like the cool/dangerous older brother from Home Improvement. The one positive affect the ad has is that once the kids the ad is aimed at finally do start smoking pot, it makes for some hilarious late night viewing.
4) Your Brain on Drugs
Probably the most famous of all anti-drug PSAs, this ad has a tone of gruff condescension that always felt a little unearned. After making what is at best a muddled metaphor, the voiceover guy says "any questions" in a way that implies that if you do have questions, he's going to punch you in the mouth. Well, actually, since you're asking, we do have a question: What the fuck do you have against fried eggs, man? I mean, they're certainly better than the salmonella-laced raw eggs that our brain presumably was before we fried it in the delicious sizzling butter (read: drugs).
Unintended Consequence: Thinking about this ad while stoned actually clued us in to the vast PSA conspiracy against America's Chicken Farmers. Think about it, there are PSAs for all sorts of cattle byproducts: milk, cheese, beef. Those "Pork: The Other White Meat" spots play like campaign ads in some sort of meat-election that pork is running in against chicken. In fact, the only time chickens or chicken byproducts are overtly mentioned in a PSA, its either as an insult from a hulking drug dealer, or as a metaphor for junky brains like in this one.
3) Anti-drug Canadian rap
As Snow proved with his breakout 1993 hit "Informer," even if they're talking about drugs, Canadians should never rap. Apparently, whoever is spitting hot fire about brain blisters and trouble with the law in this commercial didn't get the memo. This ad-an odd mixture of those Barney music videos and an acid freak out-is based on the premise that kids might get confused between the sorts of drugs that are prescribed by doctors and the kind that you get on the street. Which brings us to an important question: are there Canadian drug dealers out there posing as doctors to get little kids to try drugs? Because if so, we've heard of some hardcore shit in Jay-Z songs, but apparently our drug dealers don't have shit on their Canadian brethren.
Unintended Consequence: To tell you the truth, we never saw this ad growing up, but if we had it would have made us want to move to Canada. With the American anti-drug ads all you get is death, pregnancy and gay turtles. In Canada, you get some cool dude talking jive about how there might be trouble with the law, but right after he says it the kids are partying up with mustachioed cops and smiling parents. The chorus says it all: "drugs, drugs, drugs!" We're pretty sure they took that from a Doors song.
2) Rachel Leigh Cook Breaks Shit
There's a school of thought within the genre of anti-drug PSAs that if they just act really, really angry at you, you'll somehow be less likely to use drugs. This ad represents the pinnacle of that approach (and also, with apologies to She' All That fans, the pinnacle of Rachel Leigh Cook's career). Beginning with the iconic this-is-your-brain-on-drugs egg, Ms. Cook informs you that this is what happens when you snort heroin and smashes the egg with a frying pan. She then rails against the furniture in this once-pristine kitchen, which by the end is very much in need of "getting clean."
Unintended Consequence: Not that we're big on the H scene, but isn't snorting like the fifth most popular way of taking heroin? Isn't an anti-heroin snorting ad a little like the DUI commercials focusing on Zima related DUIs? After Pulp Fiction already taught us that snorting heroin would put you in a coma and that shooting up made you win dance contests, shouldn't this commercial have come out a little stronger against heroin across the board, and not just the least popular of the many ways of taking it?
At least they appear to have learned a lesson from beer commercials-the surest way of getting guys to think a product isn't cool is by getting a tightly clothed actress with a great rack to jump around in your commercial. Oh, wait"
1) Shallow End
Another one of the strategies for keeping kids clean is to threaten them with nightmare scenarios that have nothing to do with drugs, and then imply that there is some sort of causal connection between the scenario and drug use. This method is especially popular in the latest wave of anti-marijuana ads in which teenage girls somehow become pregnant from smoking a joint. However the strategy got its start with this classic, in which some girl whose high enough to be wearing a one piece bathing suit at the public pool, dives head-first off a high-dive followed by the bone chilling reveal that-gasp-the pool is empty. This was actually their second option for scaring kids away from drugs, but the first idea of going door to door, engaging kids in conversations about drugs and then having someone run up from behind and scream BOO, proved too expensive.
Unintended Consequence: Actually this ad had a profound affect on us. We remember being extra careful to double- and triple-check that there was water in the pool before jumping off the diving board. Especially when we were stoned.