Andy Anderson: When Your Campaign Goes Viral

Marketers always want to stand out and grab the largest share of voice or engagement possible; they want to influence social behavior. Andy Anderson saw the comps for the “Meth. We’re on it.” campaign – advertising effectiveness aside, he knew it would be controversial and he liked that this was a socially-minded project to the extreme, illustrating a problem where too many people were dying. The Meth project was one not to be missed.

The point of the campaign is to make people stop and think, and ultimately act. And talk about the problem, out in the open. Although you can’t plan for it, the advertising holy grail is to have something go viral. This campaign did that, and then some. No one knew that it would become a cultural movement, a trending topic on Twitter, or a skit on Saturday Night Live. Here is a bit about the project.

The strategy for this campaign was about awareness and prevention – to get people’s attention and start a conversation. The amount of press this campaign received seems to have exceeded all expectations. Have you ever had your work receive this much attention? 

I guess the last time a campaign received this much attention was when I worked on the “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial in 2013. The TV spot, for Ram Trucks, paid homage to farmers. It featured still images of different farming scenes, shot by ten photographers. Social media was ablaze with comments once the spot ran, citing the beauty of the imagery and messaging and for those in the industry, saying that print is not dead. We witnessed a TV spot, a Superbowl spot at that, be a hero for photography!

I knew the Meth campaign was going to be controversial from the get-go. The genius of this project was the copy – which drove the spirit of the entire project. Within the first week of the campaign going live, we heard that more people entered into Meth treatment than they had all year. The mainstream media was talking about the campaign, the topic was trending on social media, word of mouth was increasing, and we were experiencing the happy circumstance of grabbing our share of culture.

You are a naturally curious person, always wanting to learn more. It’s no secret that this curiosity also fuels your photography. Please share how you happened to be involved with this project.

That’s a great question, so here you go. I was in Minneapolis working on a pro-bono project with Broadhead & Co. with creatives Walt Burns, and Debbie Norton Christensen. We had just wrapped, and we all went back to the agency where I immediately saw the comps on the wall. I knew at that moment; I needed to work on this project.

The imagery for this campaign needed to have a sense of honesty and integrity, a goal you have said you strive to achieve in your storytelling. This campaign seemed to be a cross-section of much of what you hold dear, starting with socially-minded projects. Can you share why, beyond curiosity, this project intrigued you?

Addiction has permeated so many families and communities in this country, and full disclosure, it has affected mine. Photography is a powerful tool, and this project allowed the art of advertising to win the day.

The talent appears to be everyday South Dakotans. Did they know what the campaign was addressing? Did you talk about the campaign message during the shoot at all? 

Yes, ALL of the talent were concerned folks from surrounding communities, and they all happily volunteered to participate. Here are some behind-the-scenes shots where we all spoke very candidly about this problem and how it’s changing communities.

The campaign most definitely became part of pop culture when it was confirmed the Meth South Dakota campaign was part of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. The footage starts at 1:02 below.

Visit Andy on Instagram to see the results of an outdoorsman making images that reflect the truth as he sees it.

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