Thursday, April 5, 2012

Knight Rider's War on Drugs

In this 1985 PSA featuring David Hasselhoff in his Michael Knight character from the Knight Rider series, you can actually watch the American "War on Drugs" making a wrong turn:

As Knight discusses the drug issue with his artificially intelligent Trans-Am, KITT, the two end up clashing on social marketing theory. The car wants to do a rational campaign, based on statistics that paint a vague but ominous picture about the health effects of "drugs", but Knight says kids don't care about that. In the end, KITT gives up and suggests a direct appeal to authority:

"Illegal drugs are bad news. Don't mess with them."
It's true that bare statistics are not very effective social marketing messaging. Numbers are easy to ignore. You have to make consequences relevant, personal, and close if you want to really influence behaviour through fear.

Obviously, the writers of the ad thought they had a great solution to delivering the stats that their client wanted, but wrapped in a cool celebrity delivery. I'm sure they thought Hasselhoff was someone the teens would look up to, and the authoritarian tone is one that was popular in the Reagan era.

It's funny to look back at this now, though. Particularly when you can appreciate the irony of Hasselhoff warning kids about illegal drugs. The man, you see, had serious issues with a completely legal drug, alcohol:

There goes that message...

Update: This post was picked up by Copyranter on Buzzfeed.

1 comment:

  1. These is legendary video! And the plot is up-to date, life has not changed much, no?

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