Giant Upset for Anti-Drug Ad?

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Mixed Reviews: Some say the feds fumbled this ad featuring a drug dealer talking to parents; others disagree.

How’s this for standing out in the crowd? The federal government aired a youth anti-drug ad that was ranked as one of the worst commercials during the Super Bowl.

A USA Today focus group slammed the 30-second spot – in which a dealer complains about a lack of customers because so many teens are getting high off of their parents’ pills – as the second-worst among the 60 Super Bowl ads. Only a Doritos commercial scored lower.

A Budweiser ad took the top spot.

But there’s a chance of a comeback: The commercial has done better in an ongoing poll being conducted by Northwestern University graduate students ( As of mid-February, the ad placed 21st, based on its entertainment and marketing values.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which placed the ad, said the advertising contract prohibits it from saying how much it paid for the air time, but spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance said it got a federal agency discount. Companies paid as much as $2.7 million for 30-second Super Bowl ads, according to media reports.

The spot is part of a 12-week, $14 million campaign focused on preventing teens from abusing prescription drugs by warning parents to safeguard their medicine cabinets. The campaign features two television commercials, including the one aired during the Super Bowl, that are running on 27 networks for two months.

ONDCP is not concerned about the negative reviews, Vallance said. She said focus group tests indicated that the ad would motivate parents to talk to their children about prescription drug use and to secure their prescription medicines.

“It’s a little bit different than marketing potato chips or beer,” Vallance said. “The goal of the campaign is not to give people a warm or fuzzy feeling. It’s to let people know prescription drug abuse is a significant threat.”

Although youth drug use has declined in recent years, ONDCP says teens abuse prescription medications more than any other drugs except marijuana.