There is a rich tradition of anti-marijuana propaganda being embraced by cannabis fans, stretching back to the arch, melodramatic film “Reefer Madness” in the 1930s and continuing today in New South Wales, Australia, where a new series of public service announcements spearheaded by the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising firm has been widely ridiculed and parodied, and it even has driven traffic to a cannabis website which, in an unbelievable oversight, shares the name “Stoner Sloth” with the campaign.
The advertisements, which attempt to scare teenagers from using marijuana by depicting stoners as confused anthropomorphic sloth creatures, was released by the New South Wales government and reportedly cost half a million dollars in taxpayer money.
One ad features a mother, father, sister, and horrible sloth monster wearing a basketball jersey sitting at dinner. When the mother asks the sloth monster to pass the salt, the sloth monster scans the table in a haze before handing over a salad bowl. The ad ends with the sloth monster hanging his head in shame.
Another ad, titled “Life of the party…said no one ever,” features the sloth monster striking out with some girls at a party, who are for some reason more perturbed by his lack of wit than 10-inch claws. A third, with the catchy name “Weed’s not exactly a performance enhancing drug,” shows a female sloth monster in a classroom flunking a test. Each ad ends with the slogan, “You’re worse on weed.”
According to a New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet representative, “The ‘Stoner Sloth’ public awareness campaign has been designed to encourage positive behaviors in young people before bad habits start, and motivate discontinued use of cannabis before they become dependent…The campaign is designed to appeal to, and be ‘shareable’ among, teenagers, who are some of the most vulnerable to cannabis use. We know that younger audiences respond more to campaigns highlighting the short-term consequences of their actions.”
Sure. But maybe consider next time that the advertisements shouldn’t appear to be the work of someone who is severely stoned?
The Australian National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre has distanced itself from the campaign, saying in a post on its website, “NCPIC provided an initial basic analysis of other cannabis harms campaigns from Australia and around the world and general recommendations” but had little to do with the crafting of the message or the creation of the sloth monsters, as “the current Stoner Sloth campaign doesn’t reflect NCPIC views on how cannabis harms campaigns should be approached.”
Saatchi & Saatchi have defended the ad, claiming, “The videos we created were designed as part of a preventative campaign specifically for teens; the audience is not for adults or long-term cannabis users.”