War on Drugs: The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Page: 2 of 6
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The media campaign was authorized by the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of
1998.2 This law, less than two pages in length, instructed the Director of the Office of
National Drug Control Policy (commonly referred to as the "Drug Czar") to "conduct a
national media campaign ... for the purpose of reducing and preventing drug abuse among
young people in the United States." The antidrug media campaign is an attempt at
behavior change, forms of which have been used in other government campaigns and are
used by nongovernmental organizations and commercial marketers. It seeks to reinforce
existing antidrug attitudes in youth and adults and reverse the attitudes of those who have
positive ideas about illegal drugs, thereby reducing the number of young Americans who
use illegal drugs.
The media campaign is a public-private partnership. Most of the campaign's
advertisements have been produced by the Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA),
a nonprofit organization that recruits advertising agencies to develop creative concepts
on a pro bono basis. Appropriated media campaign funds are then used to cover the costs
of actually making the antidrug ads. The Partnership itself receives minimal federal
funding. Its relationship with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has
made PDFA the single largest public service initiative in the history of advertising.
In addition to media ads, the campaign has a non-advertising component consisting
of public outreach and specialized supporting communications efforts. These include the
operation of antidrug websites, meetings with news and entertainment writers and editors
to encourage them to promote antidrug messages, and a corporate sponsorship program
under which leading corporations insert antidrug messages into their own communications
with their customers and the public.
The Drug-Free Media Campaign Act authorized appropriations to ONDCP of $195
million for each fiscal year from 1999 through 2002 - a total of $975 million - to run
the campaign. The Administration had originally proposed a somewhat less generous
$175 million per year budget - for a total of $875 million - although subsequent budget
requests were for larger amounts. Actual appropriations through FY2002 of $930 million
amounted to $55 million more than originally proposed and $45 million less than the
Although the authorization expired at the end of FY2002, the Administration has
continued to request funding for the campaign, and Congress has continued to provide
appropriations at levels less than requested in the President's annual budget request and
less than appropriated in previous years (see Table 1). Congress has reduced funding for
the media campaign every year since FY2001, from $185 million in that year's budget to
$100 million in FY2006, an overall cut of 47%. Nevertheless, over the nine years of the
campaign's existence, Congress has appropriated nearly $1.5 billion to the media
The President's budget submission for FY2004 provided the following comment
about the campaign (Appendix, p. 1053):
2 P.L. 105-277, Division D, Title I, Sect. 102, Oct. 21, 1998; 112 Stat. 2681-752; 21 U.S.C. 1801.
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War on Drugs: The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, report, July 3, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc807473/m1/2/: accessed January 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.