You just never know sometimes what goes through the heads of bureaucrats and politicians. Consider South Dakota’s new anti-Meth ad campaign. The state is spending $1.4 million — $800,000 on an ad campaign — to promote awareness of meth addiction and came up with, shall we say, a unique slogan to identify the campaign.
Social media blew up. And when the state claimed that the play on words was entirely intentional, the controversy got hotter.
Beth Egan, an associate professor for advertising at Syracuse University, had similar concerns about the ad. Her first reaction, she said, was: “What were they thinking?”
“One of the things that struck me is, obviously everyone gets the play on words, they’re trying a twist,” she said. “But what they’re missing is that advertisers no longer have control over the conversation. You need to be mindful of how consumers are gonna take it and run with it in their own way.”
Egan was also struck by how much South Dakota spent on the campaign when about 882,235 people live in the state.
“I know they’re not necessarily looking for a financial return, but that’s a lot of money,” she said.
— Connor Matteson (@mattesontv) November 19, 2019
Much mirth was had by Twitter as many wondered if the ad was trying to say everyone in the state was on meth. One jokester suggested some other anti-drug ad campaigns for the state:
Oh, no. It seems like the rest of South Dakota's anti-drug campaigns are just as bad as the "Meth. We're On It." campaign. pic.twitter.com/3BDnrvkoms
— Mike Beauvais (@MikeBeauvais) November 18, 2019
But Governor Kristi Noem has decided to embrace the campaign as it is.
Now that I’ve got your attention.
Meth is a SERIOUS problem in SD. One that affects your son, daughter, husband, wife, parents, and grandparents… if affects YOU. Make this a conversation at your dinner table. Get on it and get it OUT! ❌ #MethWeAreOnIt https://t.co/nirb7Q5yEB
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) November 19, 2019
Indeed, the ad company that designed the proposal says it was planned. Minneapolis-based Broadhead Company explains:
While the proposals of the other 17 agencies are not public, the one decided by the state is.
“As we dove into this challenge, the first question we asked ourselves was what new approach can we add to the conversation?” Broadhead wrote in the proposal.
The agency researched other meth awareness campaigns and discovered that many people think it’s someone else’s problem.
“The only way to stem the tide is for everyone to be involved. We want to shift the message from fear to empowerment,” Broadhead wrote.
They knew it would get people talking, and that it did. Both in South Dakota and across the country.
There is no doubt the ad campaign has achieved its basic goal: people know of it. But despite its attempt to be “relevant,” can it do any good?
Governor Noem thinks so.
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) November 18, 2019
I think as many people are turned off by the campaign as are interested in learning about meth addiction. And the price tag for the ad campaign alone is somewhat ludicrous. They spent more than $800,000 in a state with a population of 8800,000.
But people are talking about the subject, so it’s something of a victory.