South Dakota recently launched a new anti-meth marketing campaign that has gone viral. But is it all over the internet for the right reason? That’s what we discuss in this episode with Tatum Richards, who recently moved from South Dakota, and Chris Norris, who has worked on other public health marketing campaigns.


Episode Transcript

Missy 0:00
Welcome to the social feed podcast. I’m your host Missy, thank you for listening. In this episode, we get into an interesting topic that has been on everyone’s radar for the past week. I would say since the campaign launched “Meth We’re on it” is South Dakota’s newest anti-meth campaign. And everyone has been talking about how it was executed. Is this the right way to bring awareness and we wanted to really dissect the campaign. the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between about how we got to this point. We have two guests on the episode Tatum Richards who’s actually from South Dakota and brought this campaign to light when it first launched. The campaign features a bunch of people from her hometown and different areas around South Dakota. So she really dives into be the resident and how that impact is on her. And then we have Chris Norris, whose background is in working on multiple campaigns that involve like the opioid crisis and working with the Red Cross on blood donations and getting more awareness to the public in that fact. So we dive in really deep from both sides of that for this campaign. So let’s get into this week’s episode number 99 “Meth- We’re on it” South Dakota’s anti-meth campaign. So many of you have probably seen all over your LinkedIn feeds the news, social media in general. South Dakota launched a new campaign the past week, that has been blowing up everyone’s feeds called “Meth- We’re on it.” And is everything about trying to you know, bring light to the addiction which they definitely have. I’ll say in the best way. That’s what we’re talking about today. So uh, Tatum being the South Dakota resident, and growing up there. I want to get your thoughts on been from there what you thought about this campaign when you first saw it.

Tatum 1:49
It definitely grabbed my attention initially, because homestate is the logo, the big slogan on it. I will say I don’t love it. It’s not my favorite.

Pat 2:06
Because you’re from South Dakota or just in general?

Missy 2:09
Do you find it offensive? Being from South Dakota, like, what are your thoughts?

Tatum 2:13
I don’t, I don’t know if it necessarily find offensive. I mean, people think we’re on meth now, so that’s not ideal. But more so just that I think it didn’t really hit the mark and achieve the goal that it was intended to. So I don’t know that I’m offended. I’m just confused.

Missy 2:33
So Chris, and I’m really curious about your opinion on this campaign. Will you talk a little bit about your background? Because I feel like that’s pretty perfect for what this show idea is.

Chris 2:41
Yeah. So prior to my time at Hubbard, I spent about four years in the public health marketing world. So working on campaigns like anti-tobacco, anti-obesity, and prevention campaigns, things like that. And so this campaign was right up my alley. I had never worked specifically on a meth campaign, but from what I can gather from this campaign, this is an example of what it looks like when nobody involved really understands what they’re trying to accomplish, or has worked on a public health or behavior change campaign in the past. Because if you had done any research or done any focus groups or anything like that, and really understood kind of the public health problem that they were trying to address, when you would not make light of it, and to there would be much more of kind of a segmented approach to the audiences to address the issue and put out a message that kind of resonates with the people that they’re actually trying to target. This seemed like they were trying to target almost like LinkedIn and Twitter and just get a rise out of the media and other agencies. And I mean, mission accomplished there. Here we are, but in terms of actually addressing the meth addiction problem that they’re allegedly trying to address they did not.

Missy 3:56
What’s interesting about the campaign is there in with the creative like Tatum you mentioned, they used The state of you know, South Dakota and they put the tagline “Meth- We’re on it”. But then they have all these images of like the football team and the captain and, you know, the farmer and all these different images that they’re using with that tagline. So I was kind of curious when you, Chris, you talked about the segments. What their thought process was when they were putting that together.

Chris 4:20
I mean, I don’t think there was one to be like. I mean,

like, it’s just, there’s clearly a lack of understanding like, both in the like the the local agency that we that presented this to the client in South Dakota, and then also on the clients we have, it’s just, like, incredibly clear that nobody understood what they were trying to accomplish. And everyone just kind of shrugged them in like, Oh, yeah, that sounds cool. We’ll get for four days of attention talking about North Dakota like I’m sure. Or South Dakota Excuse me. I’m sure South Dakota is indexing way higher on Google right now than it was last week which could result Dakota but but to what end? Yeah, and I mean it to your point about the images. I mean, like they’re one of them. There’s three kids, it looks like they’re under 18. And

Tatum 5:06
yeah, it says, Oh, I know the kids actually, that’s from my hometown on my high school football field. And,

Pat 5:13
of course, you know them

Missy 5:14
so they actually went to South Dakota and these images are from South Dakota?

Tatum 5:16
Yeah. I mean, one of the I mean, obviously, the people in images disclaimer, are not on meth. But, I mean, my vice principal is in one of the images from high school. So I just wondered, I think, are we trying to say, you know, like, there’s more math than you think, like, meth’s all around. Like, I’m assuming that was the approach, but just not. It didn’t come across that way.

Missy 5:40
What I’m curious about is so this campaign cost half million dollars to put together so they so obviously, this agency, like pitch this idea to them to South Dakota to put this together, and then it sounds like not everyone in the town got involved because they’re in the campaign, which I didn’t even know that part that they were actually people from South Dakota. Yeah. So how did we get here? It’s kind of my question.

Tatum 6:04
Well, I know they. So governor Noem asked for agencies to pitch her last summer. So this has been ongoing for a while. So, for a campaign that’s been happening for so long, or in the works, at least you think this has been run by a few heads down them. But um, anyway, so yeah, and I know, a bunch of agencies, at least nine from in-state pitch here as well. So that’s how it came about I guess. She asked for open pitches for out of the box ideas and this one was the winner.

Chris 6:45
I think something that’s interesting to me about this is it this is a great example of a campaign where traditional marketing metrics aren’t how you should measure success because they’re gonna see a ton of impressions on this ton of reach ton of engagement obviously, probably ton of website visits as a result, they’ve gotten a ton of PR out of it, like they were in the New York Times I saw, but I don’t think anybody who looked at this critically and put any thought into it would look at any of those metrics and be like, yeah, this campaign helps reduce meth use in our state. And so the like, kind of the traditional agency lens on this I think is where got problematic because they just saw and it’s like, we get a ton of impressions a ton of reach a ton of engagement. That’s how we’ve measured success in our past campaigns with soda company X, you know, or shoe company Y, and in the behavior change and public health world, that’s just not how you measure success. And, I mean, the result is just this kind of a disaster.

Pat 7:47
I just, I just find it almost offensive. It just there’s nothing about the campaign that speaks to the the problem or any sort of solution to the problem. And when we’re talking about marketing, almost anything, we’re always we’re generally trying to point to solutions like, you know, if you need a home built, we can help you build a home if you need, if you’re hungry, this food will satisfy your hunger in this campaign, there’s nothing about it, it draws more attention to the meth. And using pictures of people that aren’t on meth. I mean, not that you want a bunch of pictures of people that are on meth, but at least that would highlight the problem- I don’t know, it’s there’s just like Chris was saying it’s just the they were going for the wrong metrics, at the detriment of I think anything positive that could be accomplished by a big statewide campaign like this over an issue that needs to be addressed and, you know, fixed.

Missy 8:56
So there is the president of the agency that did this campaign. It said in an article because now that is getting national attention, she’s getting a lot of being spoken to a lot. She said we knew is going to be provocative. We wanted to do something different. Because it really does really impact all of South Dakota. So that imagery we have for it is really inclusive. She said

Chris 9:17
something different is instead of reducing meth use, they might be increasing it. So good job there.

Tatum 9:23
Yeah, I mean, my feed the past week has just been memes on memes of meth and people like editing photos, and it’s having on every platform, Snapchat, Twitter, I’ve seen it on Facebook. So until Marks himself safe from the meth use. And like, I mean, they run some really funny creative things I’ve seen. So I think to your point, it’s creating awareness but the absolute wrong kind of awareness and it’s not. That was one of my kind of problems with this campaign as well as the didn’t have a A call to action. Like you said, Pat, like it doesn’t. So okay, great. So what do we do about it? There’s no, you know, how do we seek help towards epidemic and there’s nothing really promoting it just kind of that it’s there and now it’s can just be made fun of so

Chris 10:17
the other thing that’s interesting about this campaign is I was just thinking, who is this for? Like, who is struggling with meth addiction or any sort of addiction, sees one of these images or see some of these stories and things? You know what? I think I’m going to go get help for my addiction. I just that’s not the type of campaign it is. It’s not empathetic to those addictions, or anything.

Pat 10:39
It doesn’t give anybody who sees it anywhere to go. Like it doesn’t it doesn’t give them anything to do like, Oh, yeah, I’m struggling with a meth addiction. I saw this campaign now I know exactly who to call to, to help because I don’t want to be addicted to meth anymore. No,

Tatum 10:55
I’m not the only one on mass here obviously, so it’s probably fine.

Missy 11:00
It almost makes it cool in a strange way. That’s how the ads are and they have bumper stickers now with meth were on it like they this agency put together a ton of creative around

Chris 11:09
there are bumper stickers?

Tatum 11:10
Bumper stickers, pop sockets, hats..

Missy 11:13
Like swag there is swag.

Tatum 11:15
So it costs this campaign is closer to 1.5 million. So the because of the merch and swag and media placement and TV ads, and the campaign itself is slated to be running through May. So this isn’t, yeah,

Missy 11:32
this is going to be we’re going to be seeing this for a while.

Tatum 11:34
And I saw a quote that said unless we need to take it down sooner kind of thing. But

Chris 11:42
yeah, that was the other thing. You read the quote from the agency. And just generally speaking, if you’re an agency and you’re working on a project, and less than a week after it launches, you feel compelled to come out with this statement defending that work. That’s when you know you’ve stepped in it a little bit. And I mean, they’re obviously not going to admit it. And I get that, but I think it everyone involved kind of recognizes that they may have overplayed their hand a little bit with all the comments they’re making about maybe reducing the budget or trying to defend it in weird ways.

Missy 12:15
Yeah, I’m really curious when you’re talking about the results, like, what what is that going to look like in the next five to six months as far as meth usage? And are they going to report back on that and how this campaign is helping? And is there like, I haven’t tried to search? Is there a website that people can go to learn more about it?

Tatum 12:31
The website title is

Missy 12:34
Oh, okay. That’s okay.

Tatum 12:36
So if you want to go there?

Missy 12:39
Pulling it up now!

Pat 12:41
Will our spam filters get flagged?

Missy 12:43
I’m waiting for IT to be like, what are you doing?

Tatum 12:45
I did it on my work computer too so fingers crossed there

Chris 12:50
I will say the one decent thing that campaign did if you actually look at the content at the site, it’s decent, they have resources for people to get addiction help, or if whether you are the person addicted or your family member who knows somebody that’s addicted. So there is like a kernel of, I guess, goodness, and there is just, you’ve like slept all this nonsense on top of it that you can’t like people aren’t even talking about that part of it. Like you didn’t even know that they had that those materials. And that’s really what they should be promoting in a more interesting way but they’ve just kind of slapped this nonsensical bumper sticker over everything.

Pat 13:27
So my biggest question at this point is when the governor put the pitch out, like what was the obviously meth addiction, is something that they wanted to solve, but what was the point of asking for campaigns? Are they trying to are they are they just trying to reduce meth usage? And so they needed some crazy national campaign like how does how does this marketing affect anything done in South Dakota towards meth addiction prevention and so on?

Chris 13:59
So I will say I did not read the RFP of the South Dakota put out. But generally speaking, I’m sure what they did is they identified we have a high percentage of addiction in our state. And then they determined that a hyper as high percentage of those addicted or addicted to meth, and it’s like disproportionate to other states. And it seems like that’s what they solved. And so they said, Okay, well, we need a campaign focused on education about addiction to meth, and then we needed and then part of that campaign needs to be providing resources to people who are addicted and want to get help. So I would imagine that’s where it started. It started in a good place. But yeah, again, like you get these, like traditional agencies who haven’t worked in this field and haven’t spent time with like the public health research, and you get like a Pepsi campaign for a public health like topic and then this can be the result sometimes.

Tatum 14:53
Right- Yeah. And I know the meth statistics in South Dakota are crazy. Higher than they are 2x the national average,

Missy 15:01
Yes twice as many teenagers in South Dakota between ages 12 and 17 have reported using meth in the past year, which is like way.

Tatum 15:09
So it’s definitely a problem that she wanted to address. I know, going into her time as Governor, so I think that’s kind of probably obviously where it’s done from sure.

Missy 15:21
There’s really just an article about how Meth use is a surging in South Dakota and the government is desperate to stop the crisis. They say it’s hurting every resident and then that’s why this campaign this campaign came about.

Chris 15:32
Which that part is true- like that is a good foundation.

Tatum 15:37
Awesome. I think we should have a campaign for sure.

Chris 15:41
I mean, what did you think when you saw it?

Missy 15:43
At first, I thought, this is like, I hate to even say it a lot. I laughed. I thought it was hilarious. Like, I was like, This is so funny.

Tatum 15:49
You thought I was kidding.

Missy 15:50
I thought I thought it was a joke about our Slack channel and I was like, oh my god. I’m like South Dakota. That’s funny, you know? And then I was like, This isn’t real. And then as I started people start talking about morals like there. They actually think this is like a campaign that’s going to help solve a serious, serious crisis and like I grew up in a rural farm town. So meth is an issue in my area as well. And if I saw people from my school or were like, I went on those boards saying “Meth, We’re on it.” I would be offended. That’s why I asked you if you were offended, because it’s like you’re from your area. I was like, what that that’s just I don’t know. I don’t like it.

Tatum 16:30
I honestly I want to say I wish I was surprised. That’s so bad, but I just I don’t know. Man. I just think there’s a line. I saw a quote and I really liked it. And it was, at what point does clever cross the line to become insensitive? Yeah. And I think this is the clear line. South Dakota has done another campaign for “Don’t Jerk and Drive”

Missy 17:00
South Dakota has a history it sounds like..

Tatum 17:01
It has a quite a history of using kind of controversial out there campaigns and slogans to get people’s attention. And don’t my thing was don’t drink and drive is like, you can kind of play on that, like, it’s not a subject, you’re talking about swerving in a car. And also, it’s like a funny sexual inuendo. And so you can, you can play on that. And it’s funny. And that’s a subject matter that you can kind of use this kind of slogan on by twisting the words and using them in that matter for meth. I just think probably shouldn’t have gone there.

Missy 17:37
I’m curious, Chris, what your thoughts are on because you’ve launched other campaigns for awareness? What is the right way to do something like this? Because we know this is not the right way.

Chris 17:47
Yeah. I mean, the first question that you would want answered in the meeting between the agency and the client would be what are we trying to accomplish? Like what does success look like for this campaign does it does success look like follow up research where people in for example, South Dakota, know more about meth addiction than they did a year ago? Does success look like increased enrollments and, addiction services, things like that. And so that would be the where you would start. And then the next piece of that is you would want to like figure out who are you actually targeting? Are you targeting 18 to 25 year old young adults? Are you targeting 55+? Are you targeting women? Are you targeting men? Are you targeting minorities? Are you targeting like white males, for example? And then determine within that audience why how did they get to on the path to where they are addicted to meth? Because it’s not like they just woke up one day or like, okay, cool, I’m gonna I want to be addicted to meth. Like there’s, there’s a path there. There’s a reasoning there, maybe they were in pain, maybe they felt like they, you know, they didn’t have anything going for them. There’s all these reasons that if like, focus groups, like online, like you can take online surveys, there might already be research out there. If anybody just kind of pump the brakes and stop you. That’s where you would have started. And then once you determine what those audiences are in segmented, you would have figured out why. Or what’s the most common reason why they’re getting addicted to meth. And then you would have addressed that head on and offered services with that lens.

Missy 19:15
Yeah, this it’s interesting, too, because with this podcast, with all the conversation coming up, I was like, Oh, do I want to contribute another piece of content to this campaign? So invite inside me, I was like, oh, but I’m like, we need to talk about this one, because the agency was was from Minnesota, which is where we’re based out of, and also just because of, we kept coming up in conversations. I was like, we need to really dive into this and like, what’s the right way to do it?

Pat 19:39
Is there a way that this campaign is effective for what they’re trying to accomplish?

Chris 19:49
I mean, it’s gonna it will be effective in the sense that nobody’s going to do this again, and like try this approach. I mean, but like in terms of actually reducing meth addiction or increasing services. I mean, I would love to be wrong in this case, because I would like people to get the help they need, but I just don’t see it.

Pat 20:10
Not from this campaign specifically?

Chris 20:12

Tatum 20:13
I agree with Chris. Like, again, I hope I’m wrong, but I just see it on. It’s a snap filter now like, and it’s a you know, it’s just a big joke. So I don’t think it’s necessarily doing anything but making a joke out of math and if anything, potentially making it more popular, so

Missy 20:33
I’m curious what because we work with Hazelton and Betty Ford as one of our clients and so I’m curious what other Institute’s like that that help people with drug abuse what they’re thinking about this campaign because they are there are taking light of it. South Dakota is with this and I’m just kind of curious what their thoughts are on that. Would love to love to hear that.

Pat 20:55
I mean, just in the in the few projects I’ve worked on with Hazelton and Betty Ford- they’re so they’re so serious and intentional about the wording they use and talking about addiction because it’s real people that are affected by it’s real families that are affected by it. And I just I can’t see anything even close to this getting getting past that filter. It’s just It seems so insensitive and so impersonal even though they’re using pictures of real people but there’s no there’s no context there’s no story there’s no there’s no feeling behind it and like Chris was saying, there’s lots of feelings and lots of emotions and write up that go into somebody getting to the point where they’re addicted to meth that you can’t just throw that out and put a slap a cool saying on a bumper sticker and fix it.

Chris 21:54
What is fascinating to me about this campaign is think like imagine being at Thanksgiving dinner next week, and somebody in your family saying I have an addiction, I’m looking to get help. And then somebody in your family laughing at them. That’s essentially what South Dakota has gotten all of us to do. Which is wild.

Missy 22:15
Yeah. That’s that’s so true. That’s so true. And that’s why when I really wouldn’t tell you something, I was like, this has to be a joke. Yeah, there’s no way.

Tatum 22:23
I mean, that’s the premise of it. Honestly, the font is almost kind of even a mean font. Like it kind of looks like But yeah, I mean, it’s just such a serious matter that shouldn’t be made light of and it just got totally twisted around.

Missy 22:42
And it sounds like I mean, the governor of South Dakota standing behind it as well. Obviously, the agency is too but she’s been tweeting and posting about that.

Tatum 22:51
She had a tweet and she said the goal was awareness. So I think it’s working. Well, okay, like we kind of talked about earlier. Sure, the goal is awareness, but it’s the wrong awareness. So I don’t know.

Missy 23:06
I feel like when you do a follow up podcast in like three or four months, I know the results of this and what happens. I’m curious what happened, what happens with that agency and what that looks like, because that’s a whole branding thing for them to know having this on their list.

Chris 23:19
Yeah. This is the campaign they’re known for now.

Pat 23:22
So say, I’m just trying to think of trying to redeem this a little bit.

Tatum 23:28
Pat’s like, Can we spin it positive?

Pat 23:31
If this was like the first phase of a campaign. Would that make this more okay? Like, if this was say, you said, it’s like that if this was the first two or three months of a six month campaign, and then they switched to something else with that? Would that make it okay?

Tatum 23:55
I see what you’re saying. But I almost want to say it’s too far gone. I don’t know.

Chris 23:57
I think I mean anything any changes they made to more effective campaigns moving forward would be in spite of this there’s no I just don’t see any successful road to build up this which sounds like is what you’re asking. Um, but yeah, I mean yeah there’s still time for them to salvage something out of the timeline and the amount of money they spend on this but not building off this slogan.

They’d be starting over basically.

Tatum 24:25
I mean, yes, this grab people’s attention, but it’s still playing right now. If you’ve seen things about you know, get help here. Mess like I just see the word meth out when I’m like, making fun of my campaign. You What do you see Meth now you think of South Dakota? Yeah. That’s that’s what, that’s great.

Chris 24:47
I would bet $100 that this is going to be on a Simpsons episode in the next two years.

Tatum 24:52
I’m waiting for SNL this Saturday. At least the Weekend Update I’m betting on that.

Chris 24:59
Oh, that’s a lock.

Missy 25:03
Oh my gosh. Well, I think we’ve talked enough about the math campaign is there anything else you guys want to add any parting words?

Tatum 25:11
Good intentions, bad execution there.

Missy 25:13
That’s that’s the perfect way to end this segment. So hopefully, future podcasts will have some better campaigns. All the links we talked about in today’s podcast will be the show notes at We’d love to hear what you think about this episode, and past episodes. If you could leave us a rating on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to the social feed, we would appreciate that. And thank you guys for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks to record our hundredth episode of the social feed. Oh we made it will be doing that live from Hubbard digital Academy. If you haven’t been to it Academy or want to come again. You can register at Harvard digital academy. com. Be sure to use code podcast 50 for 50% off your ticket. We have a few seats left and we’d love for you to attend.

Pat 26:01
Yeah, that’s December night. So it’s coming up pretty quick. But yeah, we still have tickets left in US podcast 50 for half off your ticket. We’d love to see you there.

Missy 26:09
We’ll see you all in two weeks.

Announcer 26:12
The Social Feed is a production of Hubbard Interactive with music provided by a Minneapolis-based artist John Atwell

On This Episode

Missy Young

Social Media Services Manager

@miss_shredbetty Missy Young

As the Social Media Services Manager for Hubbard Interactive, Missy Young’s position entails working with clients and team members to drive social media strategy and lead initiatives to identify new technologies and digital best practices. She develops customized micro and macro campaigns that drive online interaction, promotes and creates content that enhances the customer experience and creates lead generation for medium to large-scale companies. She regularly speaks at local and national events on a variety of subjects including: social media, PR, analytics and content strategy.

Chris Norris

Social Media Operations Manager, Hubbard Interactive

Chris is the Social Media Operations Manager at Hubbard Interactive and oversees the day to day operations of the social media team. Prior to joining Hubbard, he worked on public health and social change marketing campaigns as a strategist. Previously, he was a failed entrepreneur and successful Peace Corps volunteer.

Tatum Richards

Social Media Coordinator, Hubbard Interactive

@tatum_richards Tatum Richards

Tatum Richards graduated from the University of South Dakota with a degree in Media & Journalism Strategic Communications and minor in Sport Media Marketing. Passionate about all things copy, Tatum enjoys helping brands deliver their message in a voice that resonates. If Tatum’s not drafting up kick-butt client content, you can find her teaching dance classes in the evenings or hitting the links on sunny weekends!

Pat Laeger

Digital Content Specialist

Pat Laeger

Pat has over 10 years of creative production experience and has produced radio shows, video campaigns, podcasts, and other digital content. Pat is an outgoing introvert, a spreadsheet lover, an Oxford comma advocate, and an avid Mountain Dew drinker.

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