- Seamus McGrenery
This conversation is closed.
Can we do anything about the marketing of illegal drugs?
We know that the distribution and sale of illegal drugs is a multi-billion dollar industry. But it is an illegal industry, so how does it advertise? Maybe deliberate product placement in movies is one way.
Maybe many people assume that the illegal drug business does not need to advertise. Or maybe people think that the industry can rely on the occasional ‘free’ plug by pop stars.
Offhand, though, I can’t think of any other large scale consumer industry that does not put a lot of effort into persuading more people to try it’s products.
The illegal drugs industry is constantly losing customers, to arrest, to recovery and-like the tobacco industry-to early death. It would be naieve to think that it does not work hard to replace them.
Product placement is a well-known, and widely studied, market for placing normal commercial products in movies as a way of marketing them. The practice is as old as the cinema.
So how would that work for the illegal drugs industry? We could look at how the tobacco industry reacted to the banning of its advertisements from TV. One way was to pay for product placement in movies.
A study found one in five movies features illegal drugs, not so far off the number the feature cigarette smoking. The tobacco industry pays for the inclusion of smoking in many of the films that feature it. Why wouldn’t the illegal drugs industry do the same? After all they have the same need to keep recruiting new users.
Both Misha Glenny and Rodrigo Canales tell us that the illegal drug business often works like other multinational businesses.
Freakonomics author Steven Levit claims that the economics of the illegal drug industry works in a similar way to McDonald's. It is the McDonald's corporation, not your local restaurant that arranges for its products to feature in the movies. They do it to boost local sales, and their own profits.
So, if illegal drugs are being deliberately marketed through movies, is there anything we can do about it?