Meth. South Dakota Is On It.
South Dakota launched a new ad campaign to deal with its methamphetamine crisis. They missed the mark.
South Dakota has embarked on a new public relations campaign to address the state’s methamphetamine crisis. To say that it’s raising eyebrows is an understatement:
South Dakota is on meth — at least, that’s the message behind a new anti-drug ad campaign so widely mocked that one marketing expert could only laugh before calling it “a colossal blunder.”
The “Meth. We’re On It.” awareness initiative was unveiled Monday by South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) to address the state’s methamphetamine crisis. In a news release, officials underscored the importance of combating drug use in a state where twice as many 12- to 17-year-olds reported using meth compared with the national average.
“South Dakota’s meth crisis is growing at an alarming rate. It impacts every community in our state, and it threatens the success of the next generation,” Noem said in a public service announcement. “This is our problem, and together, we need to get on it.”
“Let’s get meth out of South Dakota,” she added.
The state’s Department of Social Services paid a Minneapolis ad agency nearly $449,000 this fall for the effort, the Argus Leader reported, citing the state’s finances website. Several of the advertisements feature photos of people stamped with the “Meth. I’m On It.” motto.
Noem also requested more than $1 million in funding to support meth treatment services, according to the news release, and a website — onmeth.com — promises to connect residents to preventive and treatment resources.
But Bill Pearce, assistant dean at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, said any sincere messaging by the governor was lost by an ad campaign that embodies “poor strategy and poor execution.”
“I can’t imagine this is what they intended to do; any good marketer would look at this and say: ‘Yeah, let’s not do that,’ ” Pearce said. “I’m sure South Dakota residents don’t like being laughed at. That’s what’s happening right now.”
“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.
There’s no question that methamphetamine abuse is a crisis that states across the country are struggling to deal with, and we’ve seen anti-drug public relations before, but given the social media reaction I am not sure this is exactly what the state intended:
This is what they paid $450,000 for?