Kim Robb is only 21 but she is already having difficulty with the vocabulary of teenagers. The
Calgary-based assistant editor of the Alberta government’s antidrug magazine, Zoot Capri, last week sat down with a group of Prairie teenagers to discuss things that were “cool.” She found that the word produced only rolled eyeballs. “The word now,” says Robb, searching through her notes, “is ‘rad.’ ” Rad is exactly what Zoot Capri intends to be. Published by the Alberta Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), the new full-color magazine is being mailed free to 50,000 teenagers throughout the province. Unlike most pamphlets aimed at the youth market, Zoot Capri was authenticated by a panel of teenagers who forced the magazine’s adult writers into multiple rewrites until they got the slang right. The result is a slick, topical 48-page magazine that canters briskly through the teen world, with articles on subjects ranging from new wave Japanese music to the Australian cult surrounding a movie called The Man from Snowy River. The magazine skips nimbly from satire to advice to profiles of “Hot [Good] Kids” and their interests without ever laying down the sort of laws guaranteed to lose the attention it has lassoed. There are only two hints of hard sell: an antismoking takeoff of the Marlboro Man ads and a back-cover comic strip about “Sue’s Big Night,” a drinking and toking date that ends with Sue’s wail, “He opens the car door for me and I throw up on his shoes.”
Zoot Capri is one facet in a new approach that AADAC is taking to alcohol and drug problems. Instead of concentrating all its efforts on picking up the pieces of the broken lives of the addicted, the agency has launched a $2.4million campaign stressing prevention. “Learning about alcohol is just part of a much larger problem,” says AADAC Communications Manager Ric Durrant, “but some of these issues are fairly complex and can’t be dealt with in a 60second TV or radio spot.” AADAC opted for the depth that a magazine could give its campaign and aimed it at mid-teens because the age group has few magazines of its own. It is being distributed to teens around Alberta by mail because “kids in that age group never get mail.”
AADAC is not the first Alberta government agency to try the approach. The Alberta consumer and corporate affairs department last spring published Moving Out, a jazzed-up compendium of advice to teens on everything from bank loans to bike-buying. But that was a one-shot effort. Zoot Capri begins as a quarterly, and AADAC hopes that it will eventually become a monthly. The $1.60-per-copy cost is being picked up by AADAC for at least the next year. “It is a reasonably cost-efficient way to talk to a lot of kids,” says Durrant. And while the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union might not approve of AADAC’s soft sell, the first response seems to indicate that Alberta’s teens find ZootCapri... well. .. rad. -SUZANNE ZWARUN in Calgary.
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