Twelve-year-old Antonio passes his “Anti-Drug” on his way to school every day.  The picture he drew of his best friend who was killed in a drive-by shooting is a constant reminder of why he doesn’t want to have anything to do with drugs.  

In September 2000, Fleishman-Hillard (FH), on behalf of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), launched the “What’s Your Anti-Drug?”(WYAD?) mural project, providing urban community canvases for kids to creatively express images of the things they choose to do instead of drugs.  “My Anti-Drug,” the youth brand of ONDCP’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, is an unprecedented initiative that empowers kids to tell the world what stands between them and drugs. 

The goal is to promote prevention messages through powerful peer-to-peer communications and to offer kids ownership in the youth brand.  The overall goal of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is to educate and empower America’s youth to reject illicit drugs.  In an effort to extend the existing advertising messages from the media to ethnically diverse communities, FH developed and executed a multicultural outreach plan that included community partnerships, media relations and special events.  To promote youth participation, kids were also invited to write, sing, paint, draw, dance, or creatively express their “Anti-Drugs” and submit them to the Campaign for consideration in national radio and TV commercials.


The “What’s Your Anti-Drug?” Mural Project was developed as a component of the larger WYAD? advertising program already in place.  The visual arts project provided a cross-cultural exchange allowing youth to examine their values and attitudes, while building pride and self-appreciation within ethnic communities.  Collaboration with local artists, schools and community organizations within diverse neighborhoods provided an opportunity for the Campaign to leave powerful and lasting impressions.

The planning horizon was very close.  In approximately one month FH confirmed locations and officially launched the three-month, seven-city mural project.  The limited lead-time challenged our ability to secure select media, community partners and city owned mural venues.  It was also challenging to reach youth in multicultural audiences, because there are a limited number of national African- American, Hispanic and Asian organizations catering to youth, each with limited resources and staff to implement new programs or activities supporting youth messages.


National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign research shows that the most effective social marketing campaigns combine advertising with community and school-based outreach efforts.  In addition, researchers identified peer-to-peer communication and positive uses of time as highly effective drug use prevention strategies.  When it came to identifying an effective way to reach ethnic communities, the writing was on the wall, both literally and metaphorically.  Historically, murals and graffiti art have  served as cultural markers.  They identify a neighborhood, what it’s called, what the people value, and who lives there.  Nationwide, community organizations are bringing people together to replace the hopelessness that graffiti often represents with the beauty that murals provide.  Informal research indicated that murals, which can remain in communities for over 10 years, are effective at instilling community pride and promoting involvement.  In Philadelphia, anti-graffiti murals are winning the city one wall at a time.  According to Philadelphia Arts Program journals, mural art has been an effective way of promoting social change and creating a positive impact in communities since the 50’s.  More than 4,000 murals have been erected in that city to steer kids away from gang related activities.

The increasing popularity of community murals and the favorable response of the community and media following the WYAD? mural project pilot in Houston verified the effectiveness of the project.  The mural project gave kids the rallying point that youth organization leaders indicated as important in ensuring participation.


FH partnered with local governments, business and community organizations to identify sites and secure participation in seven cities.  

Target audiences included:  Hispanic, African- American and Asian youth, aged 11-18, youth community organization leaders, mentors, ethnic and general market media and the general public.  FH’s strategy included partnering with national ethnic and community-based adult organizations that had strong youth outreach components to create an activity that local organizations could support.


In three months, FH coordinated six permanent murals in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Puerto Rico, Los Angeles and Honolulu.  (Additional murals are scheduled for 2001 in New York and Washington, DC.)  FH also erected four temporary murals at cultural events that attract 

between 50,000 and 1 million attendees.  FH partnered with local governments, schools and community organizations to identify and secure local hosts and media support.  

The mural design was created by SHiNE (Seeking Harmony in Neighborhoods Everyday), a national pro-social organization that uses outlets like music, art and technology to engage and empower youth to take a stance and to use their voice and creative talents to impact their world.  The colorful WYAD? murals, ranging in size from 200 to 100,000 square feet were painted by approximately 2000 kids on walls and barricades in high-traffic areas where youth congregate, i.e., shopping malls, movie theatres, schools and parks.


Objective 1:  To increase ethnic audience awareness of the “My Anti-Drug” brand through event, media and online coverage.  Recognizing the fiscal and human resources challenges that ethnic organizations often face in designing and implementing youth oriented programs, FH organized a nationally promoted activity that local multicultural organizations could customize, rally around and support.

By combining kids engaged in positive activities, colorful visuals, the visibility of the White House and the appeal of teen celebrities, FH secured more than 75 million media impressions in both ethnic and general market media.  Live radio broadcasts, radio premiums, on-air interviews with students and broadcast remotes prompted kids and their peers to think about their “Anti-Drugs” and to add their expressions to the mural or log on to the Web site to enter their “Anti-Drugs.”  The estimated pedestrians reach, based on Daily Effective Circulation, is over 300 million impressions per year. 

The involvement of Celebrities including Edward James Olmos, Russell Simmons, and Olympic medallist and Welterweight World Boxing Champion Daniel Santos helped to attract media attention and youth participation.

Objective 2:  To empower community-based organizations to support WYAD? activities.  FH developed and provided participating community-based organizations with WYAD? “Partner Packs” (anti-drug information and activities guide), posters, postcards and tally sheets to support community-based involvement in the WYAD? promotion.  In advance of the mural project, youth leaders engaged their members in drug prevention-themed activities that promoted behavior change.  Once at the mural, the kids committed to their “Anti-Drugs” by painting images of their “Anti-Drugs” in designated boxes on the mural.  FH partnered with approximately 70 local and national ethnic organizations with over 500 chapters to implement hands-on activities that delivered the powerful behavior change messages of the WYAD? brand.  Participating organizations included: 

  • ASPIRA, 
  • 100 Black Men of America, 
  • The National Urban League, 
  • United Native Indian Youth, Inc., 
  • Alliance for a Drug-Free Puerto Rico,
  • Boys and Girls Clubs, and 
  • The YMCA.  

More than 5,000 kids submitted “Anti-Drug” postcards distributed at local mural events and over 75,000 youth submitted their “Anti-Drugs” online or through the mail.
Objective 3:  To create highly visible murals that promote positive anti-drug activities and peer-to-peer communications.   The WYAD? murals were painted in shopping malls, school grounds, and high traffic routes frequented by young people.  The images are designed to reinforce kids’ commitment to the things that stand between them and drugs.  The murals, many of which will remain in the communities for at least a year, serve as a constant reminder of the things that kids choose to do instead of drugs.  The Web site address was included on each mural as an additional resource.