Advertising campaign makes no promise

I have been critical of South Dakota’s shiny new Minnesota-created advertising campaign which was designed by a Minnesota company to bring attention to what has been called a methamphetamine crisis right here in South Dakota, just to the west of Minnesota where the campaign was created at South Dakota taxpayer expense. Did I mention South Dakota hired a Minnesota firm to create this campaign?

Meth. We’re on it. Four words. Nearly a half million dollars. There are multiple reasons to be critical of this campaign, most of which can be seen on social media, national news and late-night television. The Minnesota advertising agency, the governor and some prominent South Dakota Republicans will tell you the ridicule that resulted after its launch was all part of an artful, albeit expensive, plan.

On social media, one of those prominent Republicans said this was the best campaign out of 22 submitted by in-state and out-of-state advertising agencies. (The total price tag on the Minnesota firm’s plan is nearly $1.4 million.) Whoo-boy!

Beyond the price tag, I made a stink on social media that there was not an in-state advertising agency that wouldn’t have done a better job for less money. I also challenged the prominent South Dakota Republican to show me how the campaign helped solve a single meth-related problem. The money could have been better spent.

I’m often critical of critics who criticize absent an alternative solution. So, this advertising professional offers the following legislative and advertising solutions without charge to the state.

First, South Dakota should revisit its meth-related laws. The Legislature should pass meth laws to convince the culture it is unwelcome here.

For example: Give or sell meth to a minor, spend 60 years to life in prison. Manufacture meth in South Dakota for the purpose of distribution: 50 years. Distribute meth to an adult: 50 years. Distribute meth to someone who over-doses and dies: Life without parole. Bring meth into the state with intent to distribute: 50 years. If your personal stash ends up in a child’s possession: 50 years. If you get any person addicted to meth for the purpose of sex trafficking: death by hanging.

If you are caught in possession of meth to satisfy your personal addiction, the state will help you kick the addiction. This must cost less than multiple arrests, court cases and incarcerations.

An advertising campaign could then be developed to inform users where and how to get help. A slogan against a silhouette of the state: Slave to Meth? We’ll Free You.

A second, bold and shocking campaign could be developed to inform the meth industry that South Dakota has the harshest methamphetamine laws in the U.S. Alternative slogans: Cooking Meth? Die in Jail.; Sell Meth? Die in Jail.; Harshest Meth Laws Anywhere.; and finally Meth: Enslave a Child, We’ll Stretch Your Neck.

Good advertising makes a promise. South Dakota’s meth advertising should promise meth manufacturers and distributors they’ll regret doing business here. And it should promise meth addicts the state will invest in freeing them from their addiction. For advertising to be effective the promise it makes must be kept.

If you’re going to create a bold advertising campaign to “shock” people and actually reduce meth use in South Dakota, be shocking, not sophomoric.

Michael Sanborn writes from Rapid City.

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