Upon looking at the ads being circulated by the Arizona Meth Project, one in which a beat up woman with broken, chapped, lips and bad, stained teeth was chosen. This ad presents a close-up of the woman’s mouth and teeth; the face is partially visible (only the area covering the bottom of her nose down to her chin). At the bottom of the ad, right under the woman’s mouth, a tag in white capital letters reads the following: “YOU’LL NEVER WORRY ABOUT LIPSTICK ON YOUR TEETH AGAIN” (Arizona Meth Project, n.d.). Evidently, the ad is targeting drug addicts that consume meth. Even though the ad makes a specific reference to female addicts, the message that the decadent image presents clearly target male and female meth addicts.
The image that the ad presents is presented in a way that intends to intimidate and frighten drug addicts into staying away from meth. The makeup changes the woman’s demeanor; she appears to be beaten, her lips are broken and pale, and worst of all, her teeth appear to be completely destroyed. The mouth’s sight is ghastly as it hints that the woman, apart from having her mouth and teeth destroyed (by drugs), is near death. Hence the message about not having to worry about getting lipstick on the teeth; the teeth are all but gone, as is life. The ad tells a nefarious story, one of destruction, pain, and inevitable death. These ideas are stressed by the woman’s appearance, by the ugliness of her face, mouth, and teeth (all consequence of continuous drug consumption).
This ad, as it was mentioned earlier, was designed for one purpose: scaring people away from meth by implying that meth addiction destroys people’s faces, mouths, teeth, and lives. However, it is important to mention that the ad ignores important aspects that would give the viewer a wider context of the woman’s situation. For example, her eyes do not appear; her body in general is not visible. This makes it impossible to determine if the woman is scared or if she is calm, if she is happy or miserable; it is also impossible to determine if her health is in danger. All of this, however, is done purposefully. The ad simply wishes to clearly illustrate how destructive meth can be on the body (in this case on the mouth).
Another ad that was found to be interesting was one seen on YouTube; it is a cartoon video in which a debate between marijuana and meth takes place (both drugs are referred to as ‘The Master Debaters’). Both drugs are personified; they hold a discussion in which marijuana attempts to differentiate between good drugs and bad drugs while meth tries to present itself as a good drug (one that should be legalized). From the beginning, however, the debate goes out of track. Meth becomes paranoid and starts ridiculing itself; marijuana starts smoking itself and objects by saying that state laws have agreed to legalizing marijuana. In essence, the ad intends to demonize meth; marijuana badgers it by stating, among other things, that meth is made with battery acid, that it makes people paranoid and crazy, and that the government should be against it.
This ad targets drug addicts in general; particular references are made to marijuana and meth addicts, but the ad’s message is intended for drug addicts in general. It is worth noting that even though marijuana is not saved from criticism (as it is also a drug); it is presented under a better light than meth. In the cartoon, for example, marijuana remains calm and poise throughout the debate, whereas meth loses its temper and starts rambling trying to justify its legality under false premises. Both cartoons are sitting on chairs opposite each other (which is consistent with a debate setting), but while marijuana remains seated, meth gets up on the chair, stands on the floor, then jumps back on the chair, and so on. This is intended to show the viewers what each drug does to the addict that consumes it, and even though marijuana appears to be much safer it still does no good as it clearly makes addicts become dumbfounded.
The debate about good and bad drugs
The debate is supposed to be made in an attempt to differentiate between good drugs and bad drugs. However, neither marijuana nor meth makes valid arguments that justify a legalization proposition. Instead, the ways in which they both behave (as well as the things they say) only stress the negative effects that drug consumption has on people who are addicted. This is done purposefully because the fundamental, underlying idea is that drugs are bad for people; the ad attempts to dissuade addicts from consuming drugs.
In comparing both ads the first thing that must be said is that they are both intended as means of dissuading addicts from indulging in drug consumption. Furthermore, they both focus on highlighting the negative aspects of drug consumption, making it clear that continued drug use gradually destroys a person’s body and ultimately his/her life. This being said, it is equally important to point out that both ads attempt to transmit their common message through different styles and techniques. First, the ad designed by the Arizona Meth Project is a real-life image (a picture) while the video watched on YouTube is a cartoon video. Second, the image focuses on illustrating the devastating effects that meth has on the body; it focuses on a woman’s teeth and includes a line that suggests that foregoing drugs will make it possible for the woman to have lipstick and be beautiful again. The video, on the other hands, does not present people, but rather personified drugs (marijuana and meth) that try to justify their legality and ‘goodness’ in a debate. In trying to highlight the positive side, each drug criticizes and stresses out the negative side of the other. Finally, while the image attempts to scare and intimidate drug addicts so that they abandon meth, the video attempts to inform viewers about the negative effects that marijuana and meth have on life in a way that is entertaining.