Things That Matter

South Dakota Won’t Change Their ‘Meth, We’re On It’ Anti-Drug Campaign

South Dakota revealed its new anti-drug campaign, complete with a new slogan that rolls right off the tongue: “Meth, we’re on it.” The phrase is supposed to be clever, at least that’s what Governor Kristi Noem probably hoped. “We’re on it,” is meant to suggest the state is on curbing the use of the drug, but instead the advertisements which feature the slogan with zero context, and tell the viewer to visit www.OnMeth.com, might give the wrong impression. 

The tagline was inevitably roasted and criticized on Twitter. Noem doubled-down on the campaign suggesting that the backlash was evidence it worked because people were talking about it or as some would say, “haters is how you know you’re shining,” — truly a governing principle of our politics these days. 

North Dakota unleashed the ironic anti-drug campaign and Twitter snapped.

The campaign cost $449,000 of taxpayer money, some of which was paid to Broadhead Co. the ad agency that came up with the tagline, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. The intention is to bring attention to the state’s meth epidemic using television ads, billboards, and posters, along with the website. The photo ads feature all kinds of people, including children, saying, “I’m on meth.” The same phrase is repeated in a television ad as well. It is hard not to laugh no matter how serious the issue is.  

 “[The campaign will create] a movement for all South Dakotans to take an active role in keeping their state a great place to live,” according to the proposal by Broadhead.

As soon as the campaign launched plenty of people on Twitter started having fun with it.

Some Twitter users created some “new” anti-drug campaigns for South Dakota with ironic phrases like, “Heroin. We’re up in arms,” and “MDMA. We feel you.” 

Other users “blamed the intern.”

Others roasted the fact that South Dakota even trademarked the phrase.

Regardless of how funny, Noem stands by the campaign and considers all the jokes a part of its success story. 

Governor Noem defends “Meth. We’re on it.”

“Meth is IN SD. Twitter can make a joke of it, but when it comes down to it – Meth is a serious problem in SD. We are here to Get. It. OUT,” Noem tweeted. 

South Dakota has struggled to address the growing meth epidemic in the state where 12 to 17-year-olds use meth at rates higher than the national average. Noem requested over $1 million in funding to expand meth treatment services and $730,000 for school-based preventions. 

“South Dakota’s anti-meth campaign launch is sparking conversations around the state and the country,” Noem told the Washington Post. “The mission of the campaign is to raise awareness — to get people talking about how they can be part of the solution and not just the problem. It is working.”

In the state, meth use isn’t just a public health issue it is also a criminal justice matter that has seen many South Dakotans imprisoned. Some state officials are notably enthusiastic about it. 

“The campaign is inclusive and empowering and establishes a movement for all South Dakotans to take an active role in keeping our state a great place to live,” Laurie Gill, head of the state’s Department of Social Services, said in a statement. “We’re encouraging everyone to work together to eliminate meth.”

However, there are some serious detractors of the campaign efficacy. 

Assistant Dean at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of business was critical of the slogan.

“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 told the Washington Post. “I’m sure South Dakota residents don’t like being laughed at. That’s what’s happening right now.”

Pearce was skeptical of the campaign’s ability to reach the intended person, even if it does go viral on the internet. 

“This is not about trying to find people in the tough parts of town that are hiding from society and using meth,” he said. “This is about telling everyone in the state: ‘I know we’ve got a problem, and I’m addressing it.’ Nobody thought about the ramifications. The Twitter reactions are hysterical.”

Associate Professor for advertising at Syracuse University Beth Egan voiced similar reservations recognizing that regardless of the ad’s intention people are going to dictate how its interpreted. 

“One of the things that struck me is, obviously everyone gets the play on words, they’re trying a twist. 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 said.  

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