In this episode of Will It Stick, a podcast dedicated to breaking down the craziest brand stunts, hosts Alexis and Melissa discuss South Dakota’s meth campaign. Alexis begins the episode by taking listeners back in time to Monday, November 18, 2019. That morning, South Dakota’s new governor unveiled a new campaign featuring the headline “Meth. We’re On It”, which was subsequently plastered on billboards, advertisements and social media all across the state.
Needless to say, many people were taken aback by the abrupt advertisement, which declared its bold statement juxtaposed with photos and videos of everyday people. Despite the backlash, the governor deemed the campaign an instant success. The intention of the campaign, she said, was to grab people’s attention and show that anyone can become addicted to meth. The idea for the campaign began in early 2019 when Kristi Lynn Noem took office as South Dakota’s 33rd Governor. Focused on addressing what she called an escalating meth problem in the state, Noem was determined to address the problem in a big way. She knew the campaign would have to be edgy in order to stand out in the sludge of the media.
From 2014 to 2018, South Dakota saw a 200% increase in people seeking treatment for meth-related addiction, and studies show teens in South Dakota trying meth at 2x the rate of the rest of the country. The statistics continue on, proving the urgency of the crisis. The hope was to encourage more people to seek treatment for meth addiction rather than be eventually put behind bars. The Minneapolis-based advertisement firm Broadhead worked alongside the South Dakota government to develop the campaign. Lorri Gill, Cabinet Secretary at South Dakota Department of Social Services, gave a speech in which she clarified the advertisement’s play on words and their intent to convey that you don’t have to be a meth user to be affected by the substance.
As far as South Dakota’s government was concerned, the campaign exceeded their initial hopes. According to Broadhead, the campaign garnered 82,000 social mentions and 5.6 billion media impressions within its first thirteen weeks. It’s safe to assume the reluctance and shocking nature of the campaign only accelerated its popularity. Additionally, the state observed a rise in treatment discussion and voluntary treatment enrollment, which was the whole intent of the campaign. The campaign was ultimately successful because of its shocking nature, not despite of it, and is sure to stick around.
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Read the New York Times Article “Meth. We’re On It.”.
Read the NBC Article by Ben Kesslen from Nov. 19, 2019
Read the Washington Post article by Michael Brice-Saddler from Nov. 19, 2019