Take a walk through a typical town in Wyoming and you´re likely to see office buildings, homes or schools with a thick green stripe painted on them. The green line is part of Wyoming´s "We Draw the Line," underage drinking and tobacco prevention campaign. Wyoming is among the many states turning to social marketing to prevent underage drinking.
The campaign slogan -- ""Where do you draw the line?'"" -- is designed to spark discussions in communities about behaviors that cross the line. Rodger McDaniel, Deputy Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for the Wyoming Department of Health, said rather than scaring people away from drugs or dictating what people should or should not do, the campaign tries to make people aware of the issue and force them to think about how it could harm others.
“People in Wyoming have a real ‘live and let live’ attitude and they don’t respond real well to government making judgments about how they should live,” McDaniel said. “The idea behind this campaign was to create a community-level dialogue that starts not with us saying you shouldn’t engage in these behaviors, but with communities thinking about what behaviors cross the line. For example, where do we draw the line when it comes to serving alcohol at every rodeo and county fair?”
The campaign, which began in the spring, includes an interactive Web site and blog where people can submit statements about when something in their lives has crossed the line, as well as traditional advertising, such as TV and radio ads. To help spread the word about the campaign, a truck painted with a green line is displayed at events throughout the state, where people can come in the truck and blog about where they draw the line; and youth go out in their communities and paint green lines on vacant office buildings and along school hallways.
Throughout the state, the outside of buildings and gas station signs feature a green line along with a sobering message, such as “Dinner, Prom, Party, 3 beers, 6 beers, Pregnancy Test 9 months later—Where do you cross the line?” Billboards in liquor stores have a green line with the message “We draw the line at 21.”
McDaniel said he hopes the campaign forces parents and others to examine their actions and ways that they can prevent underage drinking. “When parents really think about where they want to draw the line, whether it’s our behavior or what we teach our children, they end up thinking it through and reaching a responsible decision; it creates a conversation that has a real chance of affecting cultural change,” he noted.
Officials in Minnesota also hope their social marketing campaign will affect cultural change – particularly the state’s underage drinking culture. Entitled “Most of Us,” Minnesota’s campaign tries to deter young people from drinking, by changing the misperception that everyone drinks.
“Most kids overestimate the extent to which their peers are using alcohol,” said Carol Falkowski, director of the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Chemical Health Division. “Once they know the facts¯that their peers aren’t all using alcohol¯they cut their alcohol use because they want to be like the biggest share of the crowd.”
The campaign is based on results from a survey which found that 78 percent of Minnesota students in grades seven through 12 drink less than once a month, yet 68 percent of students think most students drink once a month or more. In addition, while 66 percent of students surveyed believe that drinking alcohol is “never a good thing for anyone my age to do,” only 35 percent believe their peers think this too.
Minnesota hopes to change those misperceptions through a combination of billboard messages, newspaper ads, blogging, text messages and Web sites.
“The kids who drink in excess may capture the most attention and create the false impression that everybody’s doing it when in fact they aren’t; they’re just getting the most attention for it,” Falkowski explained. “This has the potential to really make a change in Minnesota and stop teenage drinking once for all.”
To learn more about the “Most of Us” campaign, visit www.mostofus.org.