The government of South Dakota paid an advertising agency to develop the anti-meth slogan “Meth. We’re on it.”
The US state of South Dakota's latest drug awareness marketing campaign has gone viral, on account of mixed reactions to the slogan "Meth. We're On It."
The campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the problem of methamphetamine addiction, features videos and posters of healthy South Dakotans proudly declaring that they are "on", meaning "committed to tackling the problem of", meth.
"South Dakota's meth crisis is growing at an alarming rate," said South Dakota governor Kristi Noem while launching the campaign today.
"It impacts every community in our state and threatens the success of the next generation. It is filling our jails and prisons, clogging our court systems, and stretching our drug treatment capacity while destroying people and their families. This is our problem, and together, we need to get on it."
This is all true, and serious. Meth, in South Dakota as in Australia, is a devastating drug, and a huge problem.
It's perhaps for that reason that people are less than impressed with the South Dakota ad campaign's pun, which seems to imply that the entire state is addicted to meth and proud of it.
The "Meth. We're On It." campaign was created by marketing agency Broadhead Co., which has received $449,000 from the government of South Dakota so far this year.
Despite the backlash on social media, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem stood behind the campaign, tweeting that "the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness. So I think that's working... #thanks #MethWeAreOnIt".
Others are frustrated, pointing out that the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on marketing could have been spent on more effective, sensitive ways of targeting the methamphetamine crisis.
Of course, Australia has also had its fair share of expensive, widely-criticised advertising campaigns. Our own drug awareness campaigns have featured the likes of "Stoner Sloth", which was roundly criticised as baffling and missing the point.
Those behind the Stoner Sloth campaign and the Meth: We're On It campaign both defended their work by referencing the "important conversations" the campaigns triggered.
Australia has also produced "Old Mate", the South Australia tourism ad featuring a lonely old man walking around Adelaide and crying because he didn't visit South Australia sooner. There was also "philausophy", the current Tourism Australia campaign, aka the typo that cost taxpayers a cool $38 million.
The difference is that these recent ad bungles are about visiting Australia on a holiday, and not a devastating drug crisis that is actively destroying lives and communities.
Broadhead Co.'s previous hits include this ad for the cattle industry, which describes the cows the industry raises to kill and eat as "in many ways...like your children".
In 2014, South Dakota had to pull a different ad campaign, titled "Don't Jerk And Drive", after complaints.