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Reader's Digest "Don't Drink & Drive College Scholarship Challenge" Has National Appeal to High School Students and Advertising Community

In 1986, high school students in every corner of the country took part in lifesaving campaigns to stop fellow teenagers from drinking and driving or riding in cars with drinking drivers. The $500,000 "Don't Drink & Drive College Scholarship Challenge was launched by Reader's Digest in late 1985 to build awareness and peer discussion on the dangers of drinking and driving.

To create enthusiasm in schools for the competition and motivate students to enter, Reader's Digest devised a poster contest. The most creative minds in the advertising business - art directors and copywriters - were invited to develop the most effective, dramatic poster that would get kids involved and make them care about the competition.

Students in all 16,000 high schools in the United States were encouraged to participate.

To ensure impartiality of the scholarship competition and to gain educator's support, the Reader's Digest Riverside Foundation enlisted the National Association of Secondary School Principals and a number of other leading educational organizations to judge entries and oversee disbursement of scholarship funds.

A number of civic and community groups that joined the judging panel including American Federation of Teachers, National Safety Council, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Driving Drunk, National Parents and Teachers Association, National Association of Student Councils and Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education.

The results of the campaign was stunning:

  • 1,100 advertising teams - copywriters and art directors - submitted poster designs to the advertising competition.
  • More than 700 schools took the "Don't Drive and Drink" challenge and submitted documented campaigns conducted by teens.
  • News coverage of the Challenge appeared throughout the campaign in USA Today, People, Newsweek, New York Post, Associated Press, United Press International, and ABC Good Morning America, and hundreds of local media outlets.
  • Blind rock musician Stevie Wonder allowed his image to be the focus of the award-winning advertising poster beneath the headline, "Before I'll ride with a drunk, I'll drive myself."
  • The poster was a fixture in many police and motor vehicle departments, hospitals and convenience stores and within a short time made its way into every high school in America.
  • 115 high schools shared $500,000 four-year scholarships.
  • The campaign was so successful among students, parents, educators, and advertising agencies, as well as the news media that a second $500,000 Scholarship Challenge was issued the following year.

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