Opinion

I wish I’d made the Stoner Sloth campaign

toby ralphIn this guest post Toby Ralph argues the much-maligned Stoner Sloth campaign will actually prove to be effective in the long-term.

Health education campaigns love a villain.

That drink driver blubbering over the corpse of his dead girlfriend in the latest 30 second docudrama is a bloody idiot. That smoker with clogged lungs a fool. That ice user possessed of superhuman strength and sociopathic inclinations head-butting hospital orderlies a menace to society.

Such high drama works a treat in ads, is fun to produce and lauded by politicians and award shows because the impact of it all cuts through so well.

But does it?

Study after study show that while high impact ‘consequence’ commercials persuade the already persuaded, they are often so confronting to perpetrators that the messages are all too often rejected through cognitive dissonance.

Efficacy of these campaigns often lies in the momentum they create for legislative change and enforcement, rather than persuasion of the villain.

That’s why I think the ‘Sloth’ commercial is so compelling – and judging from comments in the media I seem to be an orphan.

Great persuasion is based in credible truth, and the truth is that prospective stoners and those around them do not believe that by smoking they would become criminally irresponsible. Commercials that have attempted to prosecute this proposition missed the mark with the target.

Even CSIRO has made light of the campaign

Even CSIRO has made light of the campaign

However heavy dope users do tend to become mind-numbingly torpid and tedious to those around them, exactly like the sloth in the much derided spot. And they know it.

Sure the sloth is quite likeable and this has drawn criticism from some who feel it may be aspirational; and for some dullards it may. But many stoners are likeable, and the alternative of demonising them wouldn’t ring true to me – they tend to be dull, not evil.

Besides, I believe people are intelligent enough to work this out for themselves.

I don’t know who made this spot, but I salute both client and agency for telling the truth well.

That truth is that heavy dope smokers are often slow and boring as bat shit; and that’s a potent, credible contribution to drug education.

I wish I’d made it.

  • Toby Ralph is a marketing and advertising consultant
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