Anti-Drug PSA's: Making them more appealing to younger viewers

Posted at 6:06 PM, Nov 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-07 18:06:09-05

It's been almost two weeks since President Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic a "Public Health Emergency." The president also promised funding for "really great advertising."

But how effective are PSA's when it comes to fighting drugs? Turns out, some work better than others. 

Thirty years ago, the message was simple: Just Say No.

But research shows that campaign didn't stop kids from using drugs. 

“Those efforts were really based on the non-scientific approach,” noted Ray Isackila, manager of Addiction Recovery Services at UH Cleveland Medical Center.

According to Isackila, for a PSA to have an impact, it has to go a different route.

“What we've found to be most successful with those types of efforts are that they be fact-based, that they be not scare tactics.”

Isackila says the most effective efforts stress "protective factors."

“We've learned that the strongest protective factor is what the young people perceive their parent's attitude about drug or alcohol abuse to be,” he explained. “Not what the parents say, but how the parents live their life and who do the parents surround themselves with.”

That is one of the reasons you might have noticed a shift in PSA's in recent years, making them geared toward parents rather than children.

“They're things like, 'parents, get involved with your children.' 'Parents, talk to your children,'” Isackila said. 

Isackila added that some PSA's actually do the opposite of what they are supposed to, since making behavior seem risky can also make it more appealing to young people. However, Isackila notes that others have been effective, including anti-smoking PSA's that, according to research, did lead to a decrease in teen smoking.