The first few frames of the TV advert launched this week towarn about the dangers of cannabis use made me wonder whether it would be worth finding a dealer and having a few puffs myself.
The central character, Simon, is joined by his friends, Giggles and Munchies, for a houseparty. The focus then shifts to his other mates, Panic Attacks, Paranoia andPukey, as the party descends into chaos. Perhaps I won’t bother then.
The £2.2m campaign coincides with the regrading ofcannabis to a Class B drug from Class C and carries the endline “The more youmess with cannabis, the more it can mess with your mind” and a contact numberfor Frank, the drugs advisory agency.
A couple of things occurred to me while watching this.Plainly, the creative side of a TV campaign does not happen overnight, so the government has had this ad in the pipeline for several months.
Which is fine, but the government’s own experts have beenbanging on for these same several months about the unnecessary reclassification ofcannabis. And all the while, the ad agency, Mother, was preparing these shocktactics.
This begs the question, why have these experts at all? Forall I know, the experts may be wrong and the government correct in theirrespective analyses of the effects of cannabis. But the fact that preparationswere being made for an ad campaign to coincide with the reclassificationsuggests that the experts’ advice was always going to be ignored.
Another question is whether the 11- to 18-year-olds at whom thecampaign is targeted will listen to the message. Teenagers are not renownedfor their conformity and it smacks, if that is the right word in thecircumstances, of a government being seen to do something.
Past campaigns, such as “Just say no” and “Heroin screws youup”, have been largely fruitless, according to a report two years ago to the UKDrugs Policy Commission. Is there any reason to suggest that this latest onewill be any more effective?
Perhaps the £2.2m would have been better spent on local drugprojects in areas prone to high levels of substance misuse. But these initiatives,by their very nature, are less grandiose and few of us would associate themwith government achievement.
Which, I fear, is what this campaign is all about.
Read my colleague Keith Sellick’s blog on BBC2′s Horizon programme which joined the cannabis debate earlier this month