This public service advertising campaign launched in September 2005 to combat the epidemic-level problem of methamphetamine use and the resulting crime and health costs that had hit the state of Montana over the previous decade. The objective of the campaign was to show the real consequences of meth use and start conversations between adults and teens about the realities and dangers of crystal meth. Because of the highly addictive nature of the drug the tagline for the campaign was “not even once.” The first wave of the Montana Meth Project campaign focused on individual consequences with the second, more recent wave of spots looking at the familial and peer issues.
This dramatic campaign was grounded in research and started with a pre-campaign benchmark study in 2005 which allowed the campaign to precisely measure results in terms of changing attitudes as well as routinely collected statistics like arrests and hospital admissions. By advertising standards, the Montana Meth Project campaign has been shockingly effective. Indeed, even outside the core target group (teens) the message seems to have taken hold. For example, there was a 12% reduction nationwide in the number of meth-positive drug tests in the workplace betwen 2005 and 2006. In Montana, however, the reduction was a startling 69%. Both meth related drug offenses and overall meth-related crimes decreased by over 50% in the state in just one year. Meth use among teens in Montana was down 38% from the year prior to the campaign’s inception.
Equally importantly, the Montana Meth Project campaign appears to have changed the perception of meth usage among teens. 80% of Montana teens believe that meth use will not be respected by their peers – up from 70% a year earlier (which effectively cuts the drug-accepting population by a third). Moreover, the percentage of teens disagreeing with the statement ‘Using meth makes you more popular’ surged from 67% in 2005 to 87% in 2007.
What can we learn from the Montana Meth Project? After all, most advertising does not cover issues as dramatic as meth addiction. Could selling soap ever make for this kind of riveting advertising? This advertising blog believes there are several valuable lessons from this campaign.
- Does not talk down – this campaign is stark and realistic. It does not assume its viewers are idiots as many private sector campaigns do.
- Brilliant Visual Images – this campaign is disturbing because it is beautifully and compellingly shot. The campaign is artwork and would be compelling viewing regardless of the message it delivers.
- Variety of Executions – Some brilliant campaigns fail because they wear out before their full effect can be reached. By maximizing the number of executions in this campaign, the Montana Meth Project significantly reduces viewer burnout.
- Focus on Storytelling – These spots command the attention in a way that many anti-drug spots do not because they all tell stories with careful attention to characters and interpersonal dynamics. We would watch them even if they were not anti-drug spots.
This is as near to an ideal advertising campaign as we’ve seen. The challenge for the Montana Meth Project will be to sustain the effort until the meth crisis is completely gone and to look far enough over the horizon to anticipate the next major threat to public health.
Branding Bottom Line:
The Montana Meth Project ads scare the crap out of us, and we only drink decaf.