Behind the scenes of the “Meth. We’re on it.” campaign and how it got approved

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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota is trending.

On Monday, the state announced a new campaign to tackle the state’s methamphetamine epidemic. It’s called “Meth. We’re On It.”

Instantly, the story began to trend on social media and Google searches. “South Dakota,” “Kristi Noem” and “Meth” are all terms that spiked in the last 24 hours, according to Google Trends.

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The campaign, which features scenes from across the Mount Rushmore state, has a farmer, a woman in church, a child and a high school football player all saying, “I’m on Meth.” According to state records, the campaign is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

“The I’m on Meth creative is designed to get a reaction. To make people stop and think. It will increase awareness of the negative impacts of methamphetamine use and promote resources for prevention, treatment and recovery,” Minneapolis-based Broadhead Co. wrote in a Request for Proposal.

Broadhead was one of 18 agencies that submitted a proposal to the state, nine of which were in South Dakota.

Choosing an out-of-state agency brought criticism on social media. However, in a reply to questions from the agencies, the state wrote no preference would be given to in-state agencies.

“Preference will be given to (agency) who best describes the familiarity and understanding of the demographics and geographical changes of the State of South Dakota related to this campaign,” the state wrote.

The South Dakota Advertising Federation came out strong against the decision in a statement on Tuesday.

“When public, in-state entities decide to award large advertising budgets to out-of-state companies, we can’t help but throw a red flag and remind the public of the implications,” the group said.

They say that in-state talent is aware of the seriousness of the issues affecting the state and they are passionate about the state’s future.

“The budget dollars that are now exiting our state could have been put to great use here. They could have saved positions at agencies that are looking for new business. The dollars could have given new graduates opportunities to stay in state,” the federation said. “The dollars could have delivered a message by South Dakotans that resonates with South Dakota.”

Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is the lead talent in a public service announcement for the campaign.

“South Dakota’s meth crisis is growing at an alarming rate,” Noem said in a statement. “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.”

Meth has been a top priority for Noem’s administration. As part of her 2018 campaign for governor, Noem outlined a public safety plan with “implement research-based meth prevention programs.”

“My administration will work to expand evidence-based education and prevention programs. Every South Dakotan should know and understand the signs of addiction as well as the dangers of meth use to aid in early intervention,” Noem wrote in the campaign.

Where to find resources for meth addiction. KELOLAND.com reporter Whitney Fowkes looks at different resources and how the “On Meth” campaign is connecting people to help.

The nearly $1.4 million campaign complements Noem’s FY20 budget which included more than $1 million in funding to support meth treatment services and more than $730,000 for school-based meth prevention programming.

Noem’s nearly $1.4 million budget for “Meth. We’re on it” is an 811 percent increase in funding from the previous meth awareness campaign in the state.

How the campaign came to be

In June 2019, the state sent out a request for proposals “to provide health communications and marketing services in support of prevention of methamphetamine use and promotion of resources.”

This would replace “Meth Changes Everything,” a campaign by Sioux Falls-based Epicosity.

For the state, the biggest challenge they asked marketing agencies to overcome was creating culturally-relevant materials.

“Especially for the tribal communities within the state as well as addressing the stigma of substance use disorder and combating the ‘it’s not going to happen to me/my family’ mentality,” the state wrote in a question and answer document.

While the proposals of the other 17 agencies are not public, the one decided by the state is.

“As we dove into this challenge, the first question we asked ourselves was what new approach can we add to the conversation?” Broadhead wrote in the proposal.

The agency researched other meth awareness campaigns and discovered that many people think it’s someone else’s problem.

“The only way to stem the tide is for everyone to be involved. We want to shift the message from fear to empowerment,” Broadhead wrote.

They knew it would get people talking, and that it did. Both in South Dakota and across the country.

CBS This Morning discussed the campaign in the “Talk of the Table” segment.

“When I first saw it, it made me wince a little bit too like I don’t like it, but the more you think about it, the more I think it makes a lot of sense,” co-anchor Gayle King said. “It’s a serious, serious problem. People are dying.”

The theme of the campaign is that meth is everyone’s problem.

“Visually, we see South Dakota residents – grandmothers, businessmen, tribal elders, people who we would not expect to be dealing with the meth crisis directly, combined with the headline, ‘I’m on Meth,’” Broadhead wrote. “It is inclusive, empowering and establishes the idea we are creating a movement for all South Dakotans to take an active role in keeping their state a great place to live.”

Who it’s targeting?

According to the proposal, Broadhead planned to target four audiences:

  • General South Dakotans, both in urban and rural areas
  • American Indian populations
  • Generation Z (ages 10-24)
  • Parents with children under the age of 18

Placing ads in traditional advertising platforms like TV, radio, print and billboards was budgeted for $430,000 and digital advertising for $250,000.

Broadhead proposed some specific targeting for each audience.

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On social media, the campaigns were designed to target three areas: prevention, treatment and recovery, and friends and family.

There are other unique areas to target Generation Z. Broadhead said they planned to focus on ads in Snapchat and Reddit, and explore partnerships with popular games like Fortnite and Pokemon Go.

Changes from the proposal

A public service announcement from Noem was originally planned to feature the governor wearing an “I’m on Meth” t-shirt.

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That is not what she wore in the finished project.

In the proposal, Broadhead planned to include South Dakota natives actress January Jones and WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar.

Neither appeared in the finished products released on Monday.

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The campaign that was released publicly this week used less “I’m on Meth” and more “Meth. We’re on it” language than originally proposed.

What does success look like?

According to the proposal, success for the campaign won’t be monitored by how many times people share or 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,” Broadhead wrote.

However, analytics do make up a big part of the plan that Broadhead proposed. A portal will track impressions, clicks, hits and other marketing metrics.

The last meth campaign’s success was based on numbers. According to documents from the Department of Social Services, the ads had 6.5 million impressions and reached more than 240,000 people.

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The state is hoping for better results with this campaign.

“The (Meth Changes Everything) campaign was developed based on the amount of funding available at that time. With increased funding, we would expect impact to be much larger than what was capable with the original campaign,” the state wrote.

Meth is a growing problem in South Dakota. According to data released from the state, from January to August 2019, there have been 2,242 meth-related arrests in 50 counties in South Dakota.

The state said in the question and answer document for agencies that some measure of success could be:

  • Increased knowledge in the number individuals recognizing the harms/dangers of meth use
  • A reduction in the number of meth-related arrests
  • A reduction in the number of children being removed from homes because of meth/drug use

Noem said in a statement to KELOLAND News that this campaign will allow South Dakota to lead the country in meth prevention.

“This is a bold, innovative effort like the nation has never before seen,” she said.

The first-term governor, and former Congresswoman, said the mission was to get people talking about how they can be part of the solution and not just the problem.

“It is working,” Noem said.

Documents

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#1730 Meth RFP Vendor Question List (Text)

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