SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is defending the nearly $1.4 million ad campaign making national headlines called “Meth. We’re on it.”
“This is something that we knew would be provocative. We knew it would grab people’s attention; that’s exactly what it was intended to do,” Noem said. “Because the old way of doing awareness campaigns is, we would have come out with a campaign that, ‘Meth is bad.’ I just don’t think people would be talking about it as much as they are today.”
Noem spoke to KELOLAND News on the phone from Florida. She is attending the Republican Governors Association annual conference. Noem also went on-camera in an interview on Fox News.
The campaign features scenes from across the Mount Rushmore state. In various shots a farmer, a woman in church, a child and a high school football player all say, “I’m on Meth.”
“I want every single South Dakotan to realize that they have a role; that we all need to really address this. This is a huge challenge for us,” Noem said.
The nearly $1.4 million dollar campaign has drawn criticism. Part of that is from the South Dakota Advertising Federation. The group is frustrated the state chose a Minnesota-based agency and not a local agency.
“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 in a statement Tuesday.
Minneapolis-based Broadhead was one of 18 agencies that submitted a proposal to the state, nine of which were in South Dakota.
“I’ve told everybody that when I became governor, that I would be wise and be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. That we would have a competitive bid process. That we would allow people to make proposals and always choose the best that was the most responsible with the hard-working people of South Dakota’s tax dollars going forward,” Noem said.
The first-term governor argues that’s exactly what they did in this situation.
“This company brought forward a proposal that was effective; that was wise and responsible, and obviously the impact that it’s having across the state and as much as people are talking about it, we certainly know it’s getting the word out,” Noem said.
Among the thousands of social media posts that KELOLAND News looked at, many were filled with meme’s making fun of the campaign.
“I think it’s extremely unfortunate because it’s not a joking matter to people dealing with addiction,” she said.
Noem fears that the biggest thing that stops a person from getting help is that they are alone in dealing with the problem.
“By joking about it, it’s almost as though we’re creating more of that baggage that’s going to prevent people from seeking the answers that they need,” Noem said.
The governor said there have been thousands of pageviews to the campaign’s website OnMeth.com.
“We’ve already had… hundreds look for treatment options on there just since this campaign started,” Noem said. “For me that’s a win at the end of the day.”
It’s unclear where that number is coming from. KELOLAND News has reached out to the governor’s office to get the exact statistics.
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.”
“80 percent of what goes through our court system is tied to meth and addiction, so this is a big issue and that’s why you see us coming forward with a provocative ad campaign like this is because we need every single person in South Dakota to be part of the solution,” Noem said.
However, according to state-released data, meth isn’t a part of 80 percent of all South Dakota court cases; from January to summer 2019, 83 percent of controlled substance cases have involved meth.
It’s been only out since Monday, but Noem said she is already hearing people say the “I’m on Meth” is sparking conversations.
“I’ve already heard stories of people that sat around and were talking about the campaign and then ended up having a much deeper conversation on what they can do,” Noem said.
She said her office was expecting a reaction to the campaign.
“I think everybody in the state has heard me for the last year say that we were going to have an advertising, awareness campaign coming out and it would be unlike anything they had ever seen before,” Noem said.
Noem hopes the campaign can break down barriers and allow people to seek treatment and spark a conversation in the Mount Rushmore state.
“I’m certainly hopeful that more people have a conversation about meth and how it’s devastating so many families in South Dakota and we all have the responsibility to step up and get on that problem and help fix that challenge,” Noem said.
If you struggle with addiction or know someone who does, there are resources. KELOLAND.com has put together a guide of resources.