Influence of a Nationwide Social Marketing Campaign on Adolescent Drug Use

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Community Health | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Public Health | Substance Abuse and Addiction


In this study, we examined whether awareness (recall) of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (NYADMC) benefited youth by attenuating their drug use. Data were obtained from the National Survey of Parents and Youth (NSPY), an evaluative survey tool designed to monitor campaign progress over 4 years. A growth modeling strategy was used to examine whether change in message recall or campaign brand awareness was related to declining patterns of drug use. Two distinct growth trajectories were modeled to account for growth among younger (12 to 14) versus older (15 to 18) youth. Growth trajectories indicated steady and positive increases in alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use over time. During the early portion of adolescence, youth reported more “brand” awareness, remembered more of the video clips depicting campaign messages, recalled more media stories about youth and drugs and more antitobacco ads, and reported more radio listening and less television watching. When they were older, these same youth reported declines in these same awareness categories except for specifically recalling campaign ads and radio listening. Models positing simultaneous growth in drug use and campaign awareness indicated mixed findings for the campaign. Overall early levels of campaign awareness had a limited influence on rates of growth, and in a few cases higher levels were associated with quicker acquisition of drug use behaviors. When they were younger, these youth accelerated their drug use and reported increasing amounts of campaign awareness. When they were older, increasing awareness was associated with declines in binge drinking and cigarette smoking. No effects for marijuana were significant but trended in the direction of increased awareness associated with declining drug use. The findings are discussed in terms of how they depart from previous reports of campaign efficacy and the potential efficacy of social marketing campaigns to reach a large and impressionable youthful audience with strategically placed advertisements.

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