Crystal methamphetamine destroys lives, families, and affects entire communities. In California, crystal meth disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2007, the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP) embarked on developing a large-scale advertising campaign targeted at the gay/ bisexual/ MSM community to prevent crystal methamphetamine use across the state.
This campaign faced several challenges. First, the success of the campaign depended on formative research and messaging testing among a very hard-to-reach population. Traditional research methods were not an option. Another challenge was the diversity of the gay/bisexual/MSM community. A successful campaign had to be far-reaching and all-encompassing – resonating with crystal meth users, former users, those at risk for meth use, and those not at risk. It had to reach homeless youth as well as high-income, well-educated gay/bisexual/MSM. It had to cross generations, and resonate across racial and ethnic lines. Finally, the messages and creative content had to break through to these communities already saturated with public health advertising campaigns. The ads needed to immediately draw attention, create buzz, and the core messages had to resonate with the distinct experiences and perceptions of MSM.
The campaign launched in March 2008, and a survey among gay/bisexual/MSM in the summer of 2008 already showed strong indicators of a highly successful campaign. Unaided recall – respondents correctly describing a Me Not Meth ad without prompt or description – was at 40%, and aided recall of ads was at 80%.In comparison to previous campaigns, data suggest Me Not Meth had more reach to key at-risk audiences such as those under 30, those without a college degree, and the unemployed. In the few months after the launch, analysis showed that those with exposure to the campaign were more likely than others to perceive crystal meth as a very serious problem; they were more likely to say crystal meth is addictive (a key message), and they were more likely to say they will not try meth in the future, even if "it’s just once to try it."
Lake Research Partners began the project with a baseline survey of gay/bisexual/MSM in three cities to measure knowledge and use of crystal methamphetamine prior to the ad campaign. Because this community is extremely difficult and costly to reach via a telephone survey, we conducted more than 500 intercept surveys in three cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. After the baseline survey, we conducted 10 focus groups with ethnically and racially diverse gay/bisexual/MSM as well as 15 focus groups with diverse, at-risk young women ages 12-25 in four cities (a future target group for this campaign) to explore attitudes and experiences around substance use and crystal meth. After initial ad concepts were created, LRP tested them in an online survey and in one-on-one qualitative interviews. The final stage of research occurred in 2008 when LRP repeated an intercept survey in the three cities to measure awareness of the ads and effects of exposure to the campaign.
Lake Research Partners (Michael Perry, Tresa Undem, Julia Cummings)
Better World Advertising
Anita Santiago Adverting
California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs
"Because of Tresa and Mike’s extensive research and strategic recommendations, the messages and creatives used for our Me Not Meth campaign were spot on - a testament to the 80% recall achieved and shifts in key attitudes toward crystal meth use."
— Tanja Hester, Vice President, GMMB