South Dakotans are on meth. Just ask them.
The state government has launched a new drug-prevention campaign, but the name of that campaign raises one poignant question: What were they on when they came up with it?
The campaign’s new website bears the unfortunate web address of OnMeth.com, and its new slogan is equally confusing.
The slogan reads: “Meth. We’re on it.” (That’s a trademarked slogan, by the way, so don’t even try to steal it.)
The website itself features plenty of useful information for meth users seeking treatment. The site also touts a new hotline for immediate assistance, as well as a text line. All you have to do is send the message “ONMETH” for help.
“South Dakota has a problem. There isn’t a single solution because meth is widespread,” the site says. “But we can approach it from different angles, so it doesn’t take over counties, towns, neighbourhoods. Let’s work together. Meth. We’re on it.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem offers a more straightforward message about the crisis in a video clip included on the site.
“This is our problem, and together we need to get on it,” she says. “Let’s get meth out of South Dakota.”
Noem — perhaps wisely — does not use the full meth slogan in the video.
In a separate video ad, an elderly farmer, a young girl, a football player and several others confess that they are all “on meth.”
The ad campaign was produced by Broadhead Co., a Minnesota-based marketing and advertising agency. Public records show that South Dakota taxpayers paid US$449,000 for the “on meth” video, while the final price tag for the whole campaign is expected to be US$1.4 million.
In its proposal, the ad agency says its tagline will encourage “all South Dakotans to take an active role in keeping their state a great place to live,” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.
Gov. Noem defended the campaign in a tweet on Monday, amid viral criticism over the message.
“We’re starting the conversation,” she tweeted. “It. Is. Working.”
The online reaction has been fierce and cutting.
A few critics compared the meth campaign to another state campaign from 2014, in which residents were urged not to “jerk and drive.”
“Jerking” referred to jerking the wheel, though many found the word choice to be a bit off.
South Dakota ultimately yanked the ad.
Gov. Noem specifically wanted a slogan that would stand out, according to Laurie Gill, South Dakota’s secretary of the Department of Social Services.
“We are looking for a way that would cause the citizens to stop, pay attention and understand that we do have a meth issue and that there are resources available,” Gill told the New York Times.
“That was the tone going into it, looking for something that would be edgy and that would be able to cut through clutter in advertising and social media.”
South Dakota isn’t the first government to roll out a slogan with a problematic innuendo.
Here in Canada, the Yukon government urged everyone to get “the D” in a widely-mocked ad campaign back in 2016. The “D” meant vitamin D, but many took it to mean something more vulgar.
The government later pulled its “We All Need the D” campaign.
The South Dakota government appears to be all-in on its current meth campaign, despite the backlash.
Ridiculous slogan aside, the state does have a meth problem. Meth seizures are up by one-third in the state over last year, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The agency says meth has become 71 per cent cheaper today than it was in 2005, and it’s going for as little as $5 on the street.
The DEA has designated the areas around South Dakota’s two largest cities, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, as high-intensity drug trafficking areas.
When asked, several police officers refused to talk about South Dakota’s prevention campaign. However, one officer did give it the thumbs-up in an interview with the Associated Press.
“Some will suggest it was a bad idea, some will say it’s sheer brilliance,” Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said. “In 24 hours, that campaign has raised awareness of meth more than we’ve been able to do in the last several years.”