South Dakota’s governor on Monday unveiled what she considered a powerful new anti-drug campaign to combat the use of methamphetamine in the state. Now, TV spots, billboards, posters and a website featuring South Dakotans saying “Meth. We’re on it” is going viral ― for better or for worse.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem launched the campaign to raise awareness about the meth epidemic in South Dakota. The state spent $450,000 for a Minnesota ad agency to come up with the slogan and campaign, reported the Argus Leader. Noem also requested more than $1 million in funding to support treatment services.
But the new slogan is being ridiculed by many and attacked on Twitter in viral hashtags.
Bill Pearce, assistant dean at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, criticized the campaign. “I’m sure South Dakota residents don’t like being laughed at. That’s what’s happening right now,” he told The Washington Post.
Noem defended the new slogan, saying all the uproar suggested the campaign was working. “Hey Twitter, the whole point of this ad campaign is to raise awareness. So I think that’s working,” she tweeted.
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) November 18, 2019
And Social Services Secretary Laurie Gill told NPR that the slogan was “specifically designed to be provocative.”
She added, “We were after something that would get people’s attention, stop them in their tracks and get them understanding and listening that we do have a problem.”
And some defenders on Twitter insisted the slogan highlights both the wide range of people “on meth” in the state — and that it’s time to get “on” the problem.
I think I kind of get it. They seem to be trying to show us that even normal, every day people can get caught up with meth. It’s not just the toothless, rail-thin drug addict. It’s people like you and me.
— This is f*cked up! (@FreezingRane) November 18, 2019
But many were stunned by the slogan.
Yes this is real and yes the state spent nearly half a million dollars on it: https://t.co/Nc0nKoXGBP
— Dianna E. Anderson 🏳️🌈 (@diannaeanderson) November 18, 2019
The state of South Dakota spent $500k on an ad campaign to let everyone know we’re on meth pic.twitter.com/TjAycDtjut
— 🤠 (@c0mic_sans) November 18, 2019
.@govkristinoem did South Dakota really just trademark "Meth, We're On It?" What a horrible idea. How many rural rehab centers could you have created with your $449,000 Minneapolis-based ad campaign? https://t.co/7M7hYp7kz8
— Matt Hildreth (@mhildreth) November 18, 2019
— Chris Berg (@chrisbergPOVNOW) November 19, 2019
This is South Dakota's new anti-meth campaign slogan. I do not think it means what they think it means. https://t.co/PI2EFxJuvR
— Lisa Gutierrez (@LisaGinKC) November 18, 2019
Intern: “here’s that ad campaign you wanted.”
Noem: “the one that says we’re on top of the meth problem?”
Intern: “ah” pic.twitter.com/tnjMf5o6he
— Julius Pepperwood (@ADanishMan) November 18, 2019
South Dakota has a history of quirky ad campaigns. In 2015, in a push to lure more residents, the state asked: “Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?” Adweek quipped at the time that the state was setting the “bar low” with a “new ad campaign that basically says, ‘Hey, at least we’re not Mars.’”
In 2014, South Dakota tried to convince people not to turn their steering wheels suddenly to avoid ice or road obstacles with the slogan “Don’t jerk and drive.” It was yanked a short time later.
This story has been updated with comments from Laurie Gill.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.