This advertisement was made by ‘Above the Influence’, a government propaganda-based advertising campaign of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the U.S. In the advert the girl passed out under the influence is portrayed quite distastefully as a ‘puppet’ and not in control, as the people around her draw on her face and control her limbs using pieces of cloth.
The advert is supposed to convey how dangerous it is to be under the influence of harmful substances by illustrating and focusing on the helplessness of its victims. However, the context of advert appears to make light of the situation and seem more like a prank than a concerned pro-social message. This seems then to be more like a half-hearted attempt at shock advertising as it doesn’t show the more traumatic and horrible side of drugs or alcohol and instead chooses to focus on more mundane situations and inappropriately make fun of the situation.
Research by Zlatevska and Spence (2012) looked at the effect of violent social cause advertisements had on promoting social change. In the experiment, participants completed a questionnaire that categorised them as aggressive or non-aggressive, they were then shown a video programme containing either violent content or non-violent content with two adverts in-between. Depending on the condition that participants were in, they were randomly shown a social cause ad containing violent imagery zero, once, or three times. They found that although the adverts were effective in weakening implicit associations with violence for nonaggressive individuals, these campaigns seemed to conversely strengthen implicit associations for aggressive individuals. This suggests that these advertisements seem to make matters worse for more aggressive people and increases their aggression. This pro-social advertisement could then be argued as doing more harm than good as it only helps encourage violent behavior in certain individuals and due to its weak message does not have much of an impact and attract attention to it, instead making people feel uneasy.
Zlatevska, N., & Spence, M., T. (2012). Do violent social cause advertisements promote social change? an examination of implicit associations. Psychology & Marketing, 29(5), 322-333.