Local legislators react to meth campaign

Ads, such as this one, are part of the state’s new anti-drug campaign. Its slogan, “Meth. We’re on it” has drawn criticism from residents. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH — The launch of South Dakota’s new anti-drug campaign Monday has drawn mixed reviews from South Dakotans, and area legislators are no different.

Minnesota-based advertising agency, Broadhead, LLC, won the contract for the campaign and implemented, “Meth. We’re on it,” a slogan designed to draw awareness to the methamphetamine scourge in the state.

Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, was in Pierre Monday for Executive Board, he is the majority whip in the state legislature, when the campaign launched. He said that he and others on the board were blindsided by the campaign which he said places a poor view on South Dakotans. 

“I applaud the governor for her efforts on her fight against meth because it is a huge problem. I know her heart is in the right place, and she is doing everything she can in her power for the taxpayers in this state to try to get our arms around this problem and do something about it,” Ewing said. “With that said, and I know she means no harm in it, and she wanted to get everyone’s attention, well, she darn sure did that because people are talking about it. But my take on it when I saw the initial ad took me by surprise. We live in a state where we are very proud of our farm and ranch lifestyle of people. They are a wholesome people. When I saw the ad, ‘Meth. We’re on it,’ it didn’t sit well with me, and I think it could send a very poor message to young people.”

He said he has heard from many District 31 constituents who also view the campaign’s choice of words unfavorably. 

Tom Brunner, R- Nisland, also said the campaign was unfavorable.

“Horrible campaign, heard from many constituents, none happy about it,” he wrote in an email to the Pioneer. “Instead of a catchy slogan, why not print the number of local help lines. How many people has this helped? Put the money into local programs that are making a difference, not catchy slogans that do nothing but make the news.”

There is a number listed on the print ads and on the video released. 1-800-920-4343 is the number listed on the ads, which is the phone number for the South Dakota Opioid Resource Hotline. The hotline, answered 24-7, is a resource for users, family and friends of those abusing opioids.

Rep. Tim Johns, R-Lead, said he does not have an opinion on the slogan of the campaign, but said, “It is necessary that we have a campaign.”

He did say he would have liked to have seen more funds go toward school-level and treatment rather than the $1.4 million campaign.

“My position is we have to do something, and public education is always important, Johns said. “… If it works it works, if it catches people’s attention, that why you try something unique.”

Rep. Kirk Chaffee, R-Whitewood, views the campaign positively although he does not personally care for the slogan. 

“The campaign to do something about the Meth addiction in South Dakota is good,” Chaffee wrote in an email to the Pioneer. “The ad has already gone viral, we cannot walk that back. Rather than armchair quarterback this thing, let’s acknowledge the fact that this slogan (good/bad or indifferent) has had the desired effect of reaching millions of people and getting them talking about a serious issue. The true success of this campaign will be measured on results — the actions and follow through behind it. With no follow through, the slogan will define the campaign as a stream of viral memes mocking South Dakota.”

Chaffee said within hours of the campaign’s launch, he received “a handful” of comments from family and friends stating, “OMG did you see this?!?”However, thus far, he has received two emails from constituents, “expressing their embarrassment about the national coverage and the jokes about South Dakota.” 

Rep. Dayle Hammock, R-Spearfish, has a background in law enforcement. He follows several national law enforcement websites which have all referenced the slogan.

“In the followup remarks they all are supportive & positive about the overall program,” he wrote in an email to the Pioneer.

“Overall, we have known that there was a project coming but with no details. In spite of the dust-up about the catch line, the splash has brought immediate attention to our very serious problem,” Hammock said. “We knew during the first week of the 2019 session that the meth epidemic was in the sights for a very strong interdiction effort.”  

Thus far, the state has paid Broadhead, LLC, $715,078.

According to Open SD, the state’s open government website, three payments have been made: one on Sept. 27 for 112,836; one on Oct. 16 for 336,077.54; and one on Nov. 20, for 266,164.61.

All three expenditures are placed in the “Contractual Services,” expense category.

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(1) comment

Thinker

I think the term "Meth, I'm on it" gives the wrong impression to most people. Could have phrased it better. How about "Meth, enemy number one!

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