Were the people behind South Dakota’s new anti-meth ad campaign on meth?
South Dakota’s new anti-meth campaign is a study in mistaking a would-be clever pun for good advertising—and in wasting close to a half-million bucks.
Far too many people mistake a tagline (another word for slogan) for an advertising strategy. It is not. Most taglines are superfluous, and a good deal of them are stupid.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank South Dakota for demonstrating as much. Here is their just-rolled out gem of an anti-meth tagline:
Meth. We’re on it.™
That, folks, is the message into which the Great State of South Dakota is pouring nearly a half-million taxpayer dollars. At that price, it’s a good thing they remembered the TM, which indicates a common-law trademark. Now no other state can rip off their pun. I am sure the other 49 are cursing their ill fortune.
So, South Dakota, you’re “on it.” What does that even mean? Strip away the pun and what remains is no less vague and no more reassuring than “we’re doing, um, er, something.”
I can only imagine how the advertising agency pitched the idea. Chances are the presenter said “the pun will generate buzz,” and heads nodded their enthusiasm. To be sure, it generated instant buzz, almost none of it positive; but I doubt that South Dakota’s objective is to generate buzz about their stupid tagline. Surely the state aims to reduce meth use. Now, if they think that calling attention to the tagline will serve that end, then the ad agency deserves an award for slickness and the decision-makers working for the state deserve a slap for their gullibility.
Consider the effect that Meth. We’re on it.™ is likely to have on meth use:
As effectiveness goes:
- Just think how many South Dakota meth kitchens will move to North Dakota the moment they learn their state is “on it.”
- Think how many meth dealers will pack up and move with them.
- Think how many people will stop using the moment they know that South Dakota is “on it.”
- Think how many people about to snort, inject, or smoke for the first time will think, “No, wait, I remember, they’re on it” and stop dead in their tracks.
Call me cynical, but I don’t give any of the above terribly high odds.
My neighbor asked what I would do if my own state brought me a half-million dollar budget to reduce meth use.
After a moment’s thought, I told him I doubt that an ad campaign can do much good in that regard. I’d tell the state to invest those funds in education and treatment.*
This is one of many reasons why I am not rich.
*Treatment is a two-edged sword. To a lot of judges, law enforcement agencies, and social service organizations, treatment means 12-step programs. If you look at the real numbers, you’ll see that 12-step programs are no more effective than going it alone.