As Canada blazes forth in the process to legalize marijuana, the state government of New South Wales, Australia is talkin’ sh*t about sloths in a recent wave of anti-cannabis ads reminiscent of Reefer Madness.
The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet’s ‘stoner sloth’ campaign likens young people who smoke weed to everyone’s most beloved dopey mammal with the message that “you’re worse on weed.” The videos, which are better on weed, feature sloths who struggle to perform basic human functions – like putting down a pen or passing the salt – which more closely reflects the consequences of a heroin bender than smoking a joint.
Unsurprisingly, the campaign has backfired.
Health experts have distanced themselves from the message and other cannabis prevention organizations have even suggested that it would encourage young people to get high as sloths. Jason, the sloth too faded to pass the salt, has even been glamourized on a t-shirt.
“Associating a sloth with people being intoxicated may convey a positive appeal to people being intoxicated rather than the intended negative message,” said National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) director Jan Copeland.
Her concern has been reflected across Twitter as well:
I think the people who made #stonersloth vastly underestimate the public’s hero-worship of sloths.
— Madeleine Baud (@HeyBaudelaire) December 19, 2015
The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, meanwhile, is adamant that their campaign is a fantastic idea. “The Stoner Sloth public awareness campaign has been designed to encourage positive behaviours in young people before bad habits start, and motivate discontinued use of cannabis before they become dependent,” said a DPC spokesperson, failing to realize that nice words mean nothing when the campaign is failing spectacularly.
So how does #stonersloth stack up against other terrible marketing campaigns that miraculously evolved from boardroom brainstorm to production? Well, it didn’t offend anyone, nor did it unintentionally direct the audience to hardcore porn or encourage date-raping your friends. So that’s good.
It also reached a hell of a lot more people than the brands of the aforementioned blunders (Heinz and Bloomingdale’s), which, combined with the fact that it exclusively targeted the most social media savvy demographic, exposed it to a satisfyingly larger level of ridicule.
If two wrongs don’t make a right, then two rights – cannabis and sloths – certainly don’t make a wrong. Failing to comprehend this basic formula has earned the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet our recognition for biggest marketing fail of the year.
One thing’s for sure: Australia seems to have some great weed.