Graphic ads go south 

Montana Meth Project

Ni Una Vez. The same message—Not Even Once—the Montana Meth Project has plastered across the state’s airwaves, newspapers and billboards has now hit Arizona, and in Spanish.

The Arizona Meth Project launched April 18, says Project Manager Linda Mushkatel, using the same graphic TV, billboard and newspaper ads that first hit Montanans in 2005. Some of the ads, which aim to dissuade teens from first-time meth use, have been translated to reach Arizona’s substantial Spanish-speaking population, Mushkatel says, and the $5.3 million ad campaign is largely funded with public money.

In Montana, the campaign thus far bankrolled by billionaire and Project founder Tom Siebel is also poised to morph into the public sector with a $2 million appropriation that’s won broad support from state legislators. Jeanne Cox, executive director of the Meth Project Foundation, says several other states are also working to import the campaign, including Utah, Alaska and Hawaii. Idaho is scheduled to launch the project there this fall, says Cox, and in late 2006 Illinois began running the ads on a limited scale.

“Now that we’ve proven the effectiveness of this program, we are making it available to other states and communities that are searching for a solution to the meth epidemic,” Siebel said at Arizona Meth Project’s launch.

Despite Siebel’s characterization of a “proven” program, many acknowledge it’s too early to weigh the Montana Meth Project’s impacts. Surveys the Project conducted before and after airing ads indicate increased awareness of the meth problem and increased discussion of the issue among teens and parents, but no shift in teen usage. It’s especially difficult to gauge its effectiveness since Montana teen meth use has been declining for several years and state government has undertaken myriad anti-meth efforts.

Mushkatel says the campaign is one of many efforts Arizona is undertaking and that officials plan to use surveys to track its impact. So far, she says, informal response has been good, though she knows drug prevention is a tricky task: “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s certainly worth a shot.”
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