While I think a week is too soon to judge the opinion of any advertising campaign, so far the launch of “Meth. I’m On It” has been a huge success. Yes, you read that correctly. A success. Personally, I think the campaign is brilliant.
While I don’t know if the Department of Social Services and the hired agency predicted how fast this was going to spread, I don’t agree with the majority of the social media world’s adjectives used in their opinion. For two days I read words like, “criminal, disaster, heartless, idiotic, moronic…” the list goes on. The reality of the campaign is the opposite. While the state of South Dakota was taking time out of their day to complain about something online, they were in fact helping the campaign make national news. This alone has propelled the awareness of the campaign onto a level far beyond the state of South Dakota.
That being said, there are certain complaints from credible sources that I can understand. As a member of the advertising world, I do wish more companies used South Dakota advertising agencies. I think there are incredibly smart and creative firms on both sides of the state that do great work. Yet in this instance, South Dakota firms did get to make a pitch to get this business. We lose bids all the time, and rarely is it for any reason other than somebody had a better idea or plan. It’s also fair to point out that a very large amount of that money does go to media companies that are in this state.
I can also understand the argument of this being money that could better serve the community by putting it into services for treatment. I fully disagree with that argument, but it’s at least coming from a place of wanting to do good for the people in this state. I believe that this campaign could very well be a catalyst for actual change for the positive, but in a much different way that has ever been thought of. For decades we have been watching the same style of advertising along these lines: Don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, don’t drink while pregnant, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t take drugs, just say no, this is your brain on drugs. You can picture the advertisements in your head, but here’s the thing: people still smoke, drink, chew, and text — sometimes all at the same time behind the wheel. Part of the reason this new campaign won me over is because it is dramatically different. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yes, it is a very daring ad. Yes, it could be mistaken for making us look ridiculous (although I would hope to give people more credit as people). But while everybody was busy being so disgusted, this campaign went and put thousands of citizens of South Dakota into a digital targeting funnel and branded a website across the country like a hunter’s bright orange vest. Do serious issues such as meth use in South Dakota not warrant serious actions?
In researching the proposal that Broadhead, LLC, made to DSS, I noticed a section that particularly won me over: “Success is not how many times people share something, like a post… (Success is) increasing South Dakotans’ ability in recognizing the harms/dangers of meth use, reducing the number of meth related arrests, and reducing the number of children being removed from homes because of meth/drug use.”
So think about those goals and remember that this campaign was aimed at all of us. This campaign was geared to get us to understand that this isn’t an issue that is just in one section of town, or a tragic, rare issue based on economic circumstance. This is an issue that all of us have to deal with together. Then — think of the number of families who are going to have to recognize for the first time that a beloved family member is suffering from a meth addiction. When - not if- this occurs, they’ll have a recollection of this ad campaign that everybody was talking about – and a website to go to. The goal of this campaign is not to eliminate meth use altogether. There is not an ad campaign that can 100% eliminate meth use. If you don’t understand that, you have not researched this issue enough. The goal of this campaign is to build awareness and to showcase that there is a place to get help – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – for people who need help and people who want to help.
With every omelet, you gotta crack some eggs. For a few days, we were the butt of a few jokes. Some people who already don’t like the administration used this as a scapegoat for grievances they already had. Then, we all got to be entertained by some incredibly funny (some had me in tears they were so funny) memes and internet comments. Isn’t that worth it if we also saved a few lives, helped bring down a little bit of crime, helped a few families get the much-needed support they need to help a loved one? Are we really that thin skinned in this state? Maybe this campaign will falter, or miss the mark. But nobody knows that yet. The Department of Social Services is filled with educated people who hired an educated agency to deliver a powerful message over time. Why not give it a chance to work before we dismiss it entirely? We needed to do something different. We did something different. Only time and data will be able to tell – not your best friend’s Facebook meme.
It’s also worth reflecting on a few things about the mob mentality of the internet: I would actually rather take meth than listen to the ramblings of somebody behind a keyboard who has absolutely no experience, education, or insight on this topic. It didn’t take long for the internet hivemind to become instant advertising experts. There are people who I consider mentors in this industry who aren’t fans of the campaign – their opinion is valid to me. There is only a select group of people in this state who have laid out an advertising budget that includes the entire state across a selection of different medias. Every market is different, every media has certain ways they work the best – and the vast majority of the opinions I read this week haven’t even purchased a classified ad, let alone worked out an ad campaign as complex as this could turn out to be. Lastly, if all else fails, I have found that every time all of Facebook thinks a certain way – something is in fact quite off. But the memes did make my week.
Brad “Murdoc” Jurgensen is the head of business development and VP of HomeSlice Audio, based out of Rapid City and Sturgis.
Disclosure, HomeSlice Media does have properties that various state organizations advertise on, including the Department of Social Services. This opinion belongs solely to Brad “Murdoc” Jurgensen and does not necessarily represent the beliefs, opinions, or affiliations of the HomeSlice Media Group.
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