The Wire & Advertising the “War on Drugs”


What American media has dubbed the “War on Drugs” has become a crippling phenomenon that has a grip on the nation. This “war” and its consequences were recently addressed by President Obama and David Simon. For those who are unaware, David Simon is responsible for the horrifically realistic HBO crime series, The Wire.


The Wire presents the city of Baltimore and how the “war on drugs” has violently effected its citizens. The Wire has been praised as not only the best crime drama, but one of the best shows of all time for its accurate portrayal of all the players involved in the drug game. Not only is this series shocking, but incredibly effective at communicating the real issues involved with drugs in America. However, the tactics used in the advertising industry to convey the same themes as The Wire, have missed the mark.


The marketing campaigns focused on reducing drug use in America has been shown to have increased curiosity and drug use among youth. The use of fear tactics has been present throughout the history of these ad campaigns. Instead of provoking narratives that connect the audience with a realistic character, these ads contain jarring imagery and haunting soundtracks that are intended to scare audiences away from illegal substances. Hopefully, the next group of marketers to tackle this crippling dilemma wises up and realizes what strategies will work.

A more educational approach needs to be taken to create video ads that effectively communicate the perils of drug use and their presence in society. A perfect example of the focus advertisers should take is contained within The Wire.An unapologetic, realistic and shocking perspective will stick in the audiences’ minds. The current ads are stylized. This unrealistic style easily dismissed by many audience members. By being upfront, and direct with the advertising strategy an audience is more likely to listen to the message, and be effected by it in the intended way.


Mr. Simon’s public acknowledgement (in the form of a video interview no less) by President Obama is a spark of hope for this “war.” Educating the population on the real dangers of the “war on drugs” is vital at this point in history. Perhaps the next effort to communicate these ideas will bypass traditional efforts and rise out of the ever growing independent video movement.

“One of the sad things about contemporary journalism is that it actually matters very little. The world now is almost inured to the power of journalism. The best journalism would manage to outrage people. And people are less and less inclined to outrage.” – David Simon