Ginna Sulcer-Marston (born Ginna Sulcer February 19, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American advertising executive notable for anti-drug public service advertising campaigns at the Partnership for a Drug Free America, a nonprofit consortium of advertising professionals which ran targeted media campaigns to unsell illegal drugs. She was a founder of the organization in 1986 which produced the well-known commercial This is your brain on drugs and other "hard-hitting, unsentimental ads" which depicted the "unglamorous reality of drug abuse". As research director, she studied the consumer motivations of drug users by means of marketing research methods including focus groups, quantitative surveys, and advertising research, and she led media campaigns directed at specific audiences such as inner-city youth, pre-teens, and parents. In addition, she often served as the organization's spokesperson, by giving speeches at numerous press conferences, by speaking at universities such as Colgate University, appearing on television, in print media, and on radio. She is regarded as an authority on anti-drug advertising efforts.
Marston is the daughter of late advertising agency executive and copywriter Sandy Sulcer who has been credited for co-writing the Put a Tiger in Your Tank advertising theme for Exxon along with Ernest Dichter. She graduated cum laude from Exeter in 1976 and cum laude from Princeton University in 1980. She worked at the Ted Bates advertising agency before joining the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in 1986 as one of the founders.
The agency was formed during the middle 1980s by key professionals working under the auspices of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and included Phillip Joanou, Thomas Hedrick, Doria Steedman, and Marston. The thinking was that if advertising could create demand for helpful consumer products such as toothpaste and soft drinks, then advertising could shrink demand for dangerous addicting substances such as illegal drugs. Grants from the advertising association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a wide assortment of businesses provided funding to enable the agency to operate.
The first priority was understanding attitudes associated with decisions to use drugs, and the organization devoted substantial resources towards studying these motivations. Marston identified two key perceptions involved with the decision by young kids to experiment with drugs: (1) the risk to the user and (2) possible social disapproval, and the resulting media campaigns focused on both messages. The group collaborated with anti-drug crusaders such as Carole Fields-Arnold. Marston described the Partnership's mission:
We're trying to break that age-old stereotype of sex, drugs, rock-'n'- roll going together with everything cool, and saying that drug use is not cool, and most people are not doing it, and even some of the coolest people that you look up to like Lauryn Hill or Dixie Chicks are willing to come forward and say, we're drug-free. So that's a very different message for kids that makes it a valid option not to use drugs and know that you're in the majority.
In the middle of the 1990s, research suggested that not only teenagers were vulnerable to drugs, but pre-teenagers as well, and Marston led an advertising effort to discourage early experimentation. She worked with retired Johnson & Johnson chief executive James E. Burke. She led anti-drug advertising efforts geared towards inner-city youth, and towards discouraging use of specific substances such as heroin, Ecstasy, and marijuana. The organization focused anti-drug messages on parents too:
Parents are a crucial target audience, and research shows the boomer parents are out-of-touch with the vulnerability of their kids to drug experimentation. So, raising the sense of urgency appropriately has been effective with them.
Marston advised the National Institutes of Health on anti-drug advertising strategies, and urged game designers to not glamorize drugs in video games. In 1999, she appeared in the Robert Zemeckis film entitled Smoking, Drinking and Drugging as a spokesperson. The decades-long effort by the Partnership has been studied written up in case-studies for the Harvard Business School as well as educational presentations for the Advertising Educational Foundation.
Marston is married with two children. In addition to advertising, Marston is a singer-songwriter and has performed in local venues. Her daughter, Quinn Marston, is a singer-songwriter.Marston, Ginna Growing up Drug Free: A Parent's Guide to Prevention, Sally Marshall (editor), Diane Publishing Company, published April 1, 1999, ISBN 9780788178023