Govt looks to adland to reduce cocaine use

Number 10 is plotting an ad campaign to encourage people to see drug use in the same way they view drink driving.

Govt wants anti-drugs campaign to replicate success of road safety campaigns
Govt wants anti-drugs campaign to replicate success of road safety campaigns

The government is plotting an advertising campaign to discourage recreational drug use. 

The Times reported Boris Johnson would like drug abuse to be viewed as socially unacceptable as drink driving. TV, radio and outdoor ads will highlight how wealthy cocaine users fuel violent and organised crime.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Drugs are a major driver of the violence which devastates communities and destroys lives.

“We are clamping down on supply and the criminal gangs which exploit young people by stepping up enforcement.

“At the same time, we are helping people to get off drugs and diverting more users into recovery, backed up by the largest investment in treatment in 15 years.”

The Think! campaign to discourage drink driving started in 1964 and is one of the most successful behavioral change campaigns. An 2016 IPA Effectiveness Awards paper into Think! found it had prevented the deaths of 3,025 people in five years, which was equivalent to a saving of £52.78 in costs for each £1 spent.

On the 50th anniversary of the first public information film on drink driving, government research found 91% of the British public agreed drink driving was unacceptable. Then transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said Think! had had "a significant impact". 

The Think! account is currently handled by WPP's VMLY&R. An ad campaign last year introduced the idea of "pint blocking" and aimed to encourage men to stop their friends drink driving. 

According to The Times, a government source said: “In the late Eighties or early Nineties, if you got your car keys out at the bar after three or four pints, nobody would say anything. You can’t do that now. Even if you don’t say something to them, you’d definitely say something to someone else.

“That’s not happening with drugs. We need to make them socially unacceptable. The PM wants to make it socially unacceptable to do drugs."