January’s Super Bowl saw the US government buy their most expensive ads ever, spending $3.2 million to air two 30 second spots which claimed that illegal drug use funds terrorism.
According to the Washington Post, the federal drug office contacted ad agency Ogilvy & Mather “shortly after the September 11 attacks… asking for ideas on how to link the war on drugs to terrorism in an ad campaign.” The feds used Ogilvy even though a 2001 report of the General Accounting Office showed that they had overcharged the government by 3100 hours in 2000.
The highly-paid Ogilvy agency came up with a pair of ads for their drug-warrior masters. The first was yet another parody of the ubiquitous MasterCard “Priceless” ads, listing the costs for various lethal items including a trunk-full of AK-47’s. The ad then explains that if you buy drugs, you could be funding terrorists.
The second ad used shots of young people reciting supposed reasons for using cannabis, such as “I’m not hurting anyone.” These were interspersed with statements like “I helped blow up buildings,” and “I helped kill a policeman,” in an attempt to tie in basement-grown buds with international terrorism.
Other advertising highlights included Britney Spears endorsing consumption of Pepsi-brand caffeinated sugar-water, and Anheuser-Busch’s full five minutes of ads promoting their Budweiser and Bud Light beer brands.
The irony of the anti-pot, pro-Budweiser sports advertising was illustrated during the final day of the Winter Olympics, when a beer riot took place in Salt Lake City. City police had beer bottles thrown at them as they fired rubber bullets into a mob of drunken revelers at “Bud World,” a series of booths selling Budweiser in the downtown area. Police eventually made 20 arrests, but the riot received no substantial media coverage. No marijuana riots were reported.
Although the mostly beer-swilling fans who attended the Super Bowl and enjoyed the upset victory in person were spared viewing the oppressive advertising, they were still subject to secret scrutiny and possible arrest. Federal agents routinely scan the Super Bowl crowd with facial recognition software, looking for suspected criminals and subversives to bust at the final whistle.
In large part the anti-drug Super Bowl ads backfired, drawing criticism in the media and spawning parody ads from two different sources.
The US Libertarian Party ran full-page newspaper ads in the February 26 USA Today and Washington Times, criticizing the war on drugs.?The text, over a full-page picture of US drug czar John Walters, reads: “This week, I had lunch with the president, testified before Congress, and helped funnel $40 million in illegal drug money to groups like the Taliban.”
The ad goes on to explain that drug prohibition is “funneling huge profits to terrorist organizations,” and therefore voting for politicians who support the war on drugs is helping to support terrorism.?
Another ad was placed in the February 28 edition of Roll Call, Capitol Hill’s daily newspaper, by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. This ad featured a full-page photo of President Bush, with the words “This month, I watched the Super Bowl, wasted 10 million taxpayer dollars on a deceptive ad campaign and shamelessly exploited the war on terrorism to prop up the failed war on drugs.?…C’mon, it was just politics.”
Part of the federal Super Bowl ad package purchased from Fox includes more ad space to be made available during the coming year. So be prepared for more televised pronouncements that you and all your fellow herb-users are in fact subversive, evil terrorists.