The Montana Meth Project (MMP) is a Montana-based non-profit organization founded by businessman Thomas Siebel which seeks to reduce methamphetamine use, particularly among teenagers. The main venture of the MMP is a saturation-level advertising campaign of television, radio, print, and internet ads that graphically depict the negative consequences of methamphetamine use. Common elements are the deterioration of each teenage subject's health and living conditions, amphetamine psychosis, moral compromise, and regret. As of 2010, the Meth Project has expanded its media campaign into seven additional states.
- 1 Effectiveness of the ads
- 2 Government funding and expansion
- 3 March Against Meth
- 4 Paint the State
- 5 Television ads
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Effectiveness of the ads
While the effectiveness of the campaign at reducing methamphetamine use is disputed, in 2010, the Meth Project was named the third most effective philanthropy in the world, up from #5 in 2009. In its efforts to effectively reach teens and change attitudes and behaviors toward meth, the MMP regularly conducts focus group research to refine its messaging and better understand how to connect with the state's youth. HBO has also partnered with the MMP on a documentary as part of its Addiction series.
Two surveys have been conducted that have investigated methamphetamine use amongst teenagers in Montana before and after the launch of the Meth Project's ads. The first survey is the CDC's youth risk behavior survey (YBRS). The YRBS data are listed below.
YRBS Data - Percentage of Montana Teens who have EVER used meth:
The YRBS data indicates that teenage meth use in Montana has declined since the Meth Project’s ad campaign was launched in 2005. The absolute drop in meth use since the ad campaign was introduced in 2005 is 5.2% - larger than any prior four year period. However, the YRBS data also shows that meth use was dropping for at least 6 years prior to the launch of the ad campaign.
The other survey of teen meth use has been conducted by the Meth Project. The data from the Meth Project's survey are listed below.
According to the MMP's figures, before the ad campaign (2005), only 2% of teenagers had ever used meth. Six months after the launch of the ad campaign (2006), 6% reported using meth. In contrast to the YRBS data, the MMP's figures indicate that the percentage of teenagers using meth in Montana increased following the launch of the ad campaign. By 2008, 3% of teenagers reported using meth, still more than before the ad campaign commenced. However, the 2005 and 2006 MMP figures were based on un-weighted data that was tabulated from a total of 329 and 419 survey participants, respectively. In contrast, the 2007 and 2008 MMP data was weighted and compiled from 2,335 and 2,334 participants, respectively.
In press materials, the Meth Project commonly cites YRBS figure of a 45% decrease in meth use between 2005 and 2007. However the absolute drop for the period was 3.7%. In contrast, the Meth Project's own data for the same period show a 2% absolute increase in meth use, or a 100% relative increase. The 2009 YRBS results for Montana showed meth use declining an additional 32% to 3.1%, or a total reduction of 62%.
According to a 2007 Montana State Office of Public Instruction Report, since the inception of the program in 2005, there has also been a 72% relative decrease in adult methamphetamine use, and a 62% relative decline in methamphetamine-related crimes. Additionally, the percentage of teenagers who are aware of meth’s dangers increased from 25% to 93%, and Montana’s ranking among U.S. states in meth abuse fell from #5 to #39.
Office of National Drug Control Policy report
In November 2006, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) published a report, Pushing Back Against Meth: A Progress Report on the Fight, highlighting the impact of recently enacted State and Federal laws, such as the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) of 2005, that restricted transactions for the over the counter drugs that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. Based on the results of Quest Diagnostics' preliminary review of workplace drug tests conducted during the first five months of 2006, the nationwide adult usage of meth declined by 12% when compared to the same period in 2005. Quest provided state-level results: on the state level, results varied according to the strictness and duration of the states' laws. "Montana’s methamphetamine precursor law went into effect July 1st 2005. The Montana law is stricter than the CMEA in several important respects." Montana’s workplace drug testing results showed a 69.4% decrease in positive tests for amphetamine. Montana's Attorney General  and the MMP attribute Montana's decrease in adult meth usage to the MMP. However, the ONDCP reported: "The primary reason for this positive trend is the enactment of various State laws...which implemented restrictions on transactions involving products containing certain chemicals (primarily, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine) that can be used to make methamphetamine." However, the Attorney General countered, "The Montana Meth Project’s theoretical framework is based upon the prevention principles that individuals who believe that the use of a particular drug involves risk or harm and/or who disapprove of its use are less likely to use that drug. As seen in last year’s report, both the Montana Prevention Needs Assessment and the Meth Use & Attitudes Survey show that Montana teens perceive a much greater risk in trying meth than do their counterparts nationally. Since 2005, the perception of specific negative effects resulting from meth use has changed. Among teens, risks such as stealing, lack of attention to personal hygiene, and tooth decay increased significantly (11%, 7.5%, and 19% respectively). In this time, societal disapproval of meth use has also greatly increased in the state, with teens (87%), young adults (83%) and parents (97%) now voicing “strong” disapproval of trying meth even once or twice. Perhaps most importantly, parent-child discussions about the dangers posed by meth use have increased in number and frequency."
Prevention Science critical review
A critical review of the Montana Meth Project's advertising campaign was published in the peer-review journal Prevention Science in December 2008. The review examined the Meth Project's statistical methodology and data reporting. The review found that the Meth Project had selectively reported their research findings, focusing on unrepresentative positive findings and ignoring data suggesting that the campaign may be associated with harmful outcomes. The review found that the Meth Project's data suggests that exposure to the graphic ads may lead to an increase in the percentage of teenagers who believe that taking meth is socially acceptable and not dangerous. Such 'boomerang' effects in response to persuasive, graphic ads are not uncommon, and are predicted by the theory of psychological reactance.
The critical review found that the selective reporting of results by the Meth Project has led the media, politicians and the public to form distorted and inaccurate beliefs about the campaign's effectiveness. The public believes that the ad campaign is far more effective than the Meth Project's research findings indicate. The main recommendation of the review was that public funding and additional 'roll-outs' of the program should cease until its effectiveness can be scientifically examined. The review concluded: "Politicians, the media, and prevention researchers also need to ensure that in future they critically evaluate any research released by the MMP, rather than assuming the organization’s press releases (and reports) are presenting data in a fair and balanced way. It is recommended that any future reports documenting the results of MMP’s use and attitudes surveys include complete statistical analyses for every question in the survey. This is because researchers and policymakers making decisions about MMP-style graphic advertising campaigns need access to all evidence, rather than a subset of findings that portray the MMP in a positive light.”
Government funding and expansion
Many in the Montana state legislature hailed the project as an unprecedented success, and moved to fund the previously privately-funded project with tax dollars. The move to provide public funding for the Meth Project was opposed by some legislators and drug prevention and treatment professionals, who asserted that the Meth Project's effectiveness is unproven and that research shows that these type of media campaigns are ineffective. However, the Bush Administration praised the MMP as a "model for the nation." As of 2009, the campaign has expanded to include the Arizona Meth Project, Idaho Meth Project, Illinois Meth Project, Wyoming Meth Project, Colorado Meth Project, and Hawaii Meth Project. The Georgia Meth Project was founded in 2009 with a planned launch in early 2010.
The governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, announced that he would review public funding for the Meth Project in early 2009, as a result of a critical review of the Meth Project published in an academic journal, which called for public funding of the Meth Project to be put on hold. In February 2009, the Montana legislature came under increased pressure to withdraw funding to the Meth Project after an analysis of Meth Project tax forms revealed that the Project spends large amounts of money on staff salaries and website costs. In May 2009, Schweitzer chose not to support an additional $500,000 proposed by state legislators for 2009-10, "given the economically difficult times," and stated that the Project would have to become "self supporting" in the future. The Project was granted $500,000 for the next budget period.
March Against Meth
The March Against Meth was a demonstration and rally in Helena, Montana on February 16, 2009. Over 2,300 students of all ages from across Montana marched from Helena High School to the Capitol where they delivered over 55,000 signatures of Montanans requesting funding from the Montana legislature for the project. It was the largest youth demonstration in Montana's history. The Meth Project and its supporters requested $2 million dollars in state funding to continue to bring the "Not Even Once" message to Montana teens.
The March was criticized by some Montanans, who suggested some teenagers were lured to attend due to free giveaways of ipods and the presence of a blackhawk helicopter. The Montana media were also criticized for preannouncing the rally as a success before it had even taken place.
Paint the State
Paint the State is a public art competition initiated by The Meth Project. The large-scale community action program, launched in Montana and Idaho  in 2010, empowers teenagers to create artwork with a strong anti-Meth message that is clearly visible to the general public. Contestants are asked to use the Meth Project’s “Meth: Not Even Once” tagline, logo or any other anti-Meth theme, to create art of any style and medium. The current 2010 campaigns are modeled after Montana’s largely successful Paint the State 2006 contest, which inspired art from every county in the state for a total of over 650 works of art. The overwhelming response made Paint the State the largest public art contest in history. Entries in 2006 featured 12 languages, 47 art vehicles, 78 t-shirts, over 380 banners and flags and even a painted sheep.
All 19 television spots were conceived by San Francisco-based advertising agency Venables Bell & Partners. The 2005 and 2006 spots were directed by Tony Kaye, the 2007 spots by Darren Aronofsky, the 2008 spots by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and the 2010 spots by Wally Pfister.
2005-2006: Directed by Tony Kaye
Tony Kaye's spots feature themes of meth-addicted teens' moral compromises and regret, and certain teens' false confidence that they can use meth without becoming addicted. Bathtub, Laundromat and Everything Else feature pre-addicted teens encountering future, addicted versions of themselves. Just Once, That Guy and Junkie Den feature teens who promise themselves that they will only try meth "once". Crash and Jumped feature teens who wish that a terrible accident or violent attack would have prevented them from trying meth, since they consider their addiction to be a worse fate.
- Bathtub - A teenage girl in her bathrobe talks on her cell phone while looking into her bathroom mirror. She says, "yeah, my parents think I'm sleeping at your house". She hangs up and gets into the shower. While showering, she looks down and sees a trickle of blood. She turns around and screams; there is a pockmarked, bleeding version of herself shivering at the bottom of the shower, who pleads, "don't do it."
- Laundromat - A deranged, addicted young man runs into a laundromat and demands the money of everyone inside, beating a man to the floor and screaming in the faces of women and children. He then runs to a young man in the corner, grabs him by the collar, and shouts "this wasn't supposed to be your life!" The assailant and his last victim are the same young man.
- Just Once - A teen girl declares that she is only trying meth "once", leading to a sequence of further compromises to support her addiction, including stealing and prostitution, each of which she promises will be "just once." The ad ends with the girl unconscious on her bed in a meth-induced haze, while her pre-teen sister steals her meth and whispers, "I'm going to try meth, just once."
- That Guy - A teen boy states "I'm going to try meth just once, I'm not gonna be like that guy." He gestures towards a later version of himself, who deteriorates further, finally ending up shaking and sweating on a drug dealer's makeshift van-seat "couch". A teen girl purchases from the dealer, saying "I'm gonna try meth just once, I'm not gonna be like that guy," indicating the now-wretched boy.
- Junkie Den - In a shadowy drug den, a young boy tries meth for the first time. He is congratulated by dirty, drug-addicted people, who describe his future life as "one of us". One woman says that they will "shoot up together", two addicted men say that they and the boy will "steal together... and we'll be sleepin' together, too." The boy's protest that he is only trying it once is met with howls of laughter.
- Crash - A car is driving in the rain at night. The tire explodes, and the car flips over. In narration, the teenage driver wishes that she had crashed on her way to "that party", even if she were to have broken her neck and become paralyzed, because it would have prevented her from trying meth. The girl, now addicted, smokes the drug in a dirty, run-down apartment, in which she says "now this is my life."
- Everything Else - A girl approaches a group of people who are smoking meth, and requests some for herself. The dealer gives her the drug, as well as "everything else" that comes with it. He aggressively saddles her with an intimidating drug dealer, "meth boyfriends" who rape her, an addicted baby, and in a mirror, he shows her her bleeding "meth face."
- Jumped - A younger teen boy is chased through a parking lot by three older males, who beat him to the ground and kick him. In narration, the boy wishes he had been assaulted that night, because then he would not have tried meth. The worst of the three assailants raises a cinder block high over his head, threatening to drop it on the boy and crush his skull. The camera cuts to a drug den, where the boy, shaking, says "now all I do is meth."
2007: Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Each of the spots directed by Darren Aronofsky features a voice-over spoken by the teen featured in the spot. In voice-over, each teen talks about how strong their relationships are with their friends and family, and how important those relationships are to them. The action on screen demonstrates that if a person becomes addicted to meth, their addiction will destroy even their strongest relationships.
- Boyfriend - A teen girl lies on a bed in her underwear, as an older man zips up his pants and walks out the door of the motel room in which the girl lies. In narration, the girl states, "I love my boyfriend, we've been together since like 8th grade. He takes care of me." As the older man exits, he hands something (presumably a bag of meth) to the girl's boyfriend, who stands outside of the door. The boyfriend enters the room and inspects the bag of meth that the man gave him, as the girl cringes and weeps.
- Mother - A teenage boy raids his mother's purse for money, while in narration, he talks about how much he loves her. When she enters the room and objects to his theft, both dismayed and concerned for her son, he strikes her to the floor. She cries out to him, hanging onto his leg. He kicks free and flees, as she lies sobbing on the floor.
- Friends - From the interior of a car, we see one worried passenger, the reckless driver, and a second worried passenger. A female narrator says that she is "tight with her friends", who "always look out for me". The narrator is revealed to be the fourth person in the car—she is slumped in the backseat—as the car halts in front of a hospital emergency room. The girl's 'friends' pull her unresponsive body out of the car, dump her next to the curb, and speed off as a nurse approaches the girl.
- Parents - An upset teenage boy approaches his parents' house, knocking on the door, and shouting "I'm sorry, Dad!" In a narration, the boy talks about how he's always been really close with his parents. Inside the house, the parents are panicked and distraught, and turn off the light. The boy kicks the door many times, begging to be let in, screaming that he's going to kill them.
2008: Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Each of the spots by Alejandro González Iñárritu features a teen or teens who appear to be normal and healthy in the beginning of the spot, but who appear pockmarked, bleeding, and addicted at the end, despite the fact that time passes normally. As each teen encounters their downfall—prostitution, robbery, or overdose—a narrator intones the simple phrase: "This isn't normal... but on meth, it is."
- Family - Three smiling, clean-cut teen boys ring the doorbell of a family's house. A mother opens the door, and the boys violently burst into the house: one pins the mother against the wall by her throat, another grabs a vase and smashes it over the father's head. The boys scatter through the house and quickly fill their arms with valuables, one boy shrieks "Hurry up!!", while a female voice-over says, "This isn't normal..." The family's young daughter enters the room, crying for her father who is injured on the floor, and one of the boys stands over her and shouts until she drops to the floor in terror. As the boys flee the house with their arms full of valuables, we see that their formerly clean-cut faces are now gaunt, pockmarked and bleeding, as the voice-over concludes, "... but on meth, it is."
- O.D. - Several clean-cut, smiling teens are sitting on a bed in a clean, sunny, suburban teenager's room, watching a lighthearted show on television. The camera pans to the floor, where one clean-cut teenage boy is gasping, sweating, and convulsing, with his eyes rolled back into his head. The teens on the bed appear not to notice him. The voice-over intones, "This isn't normal..." as the camera pans to a mirror near the floor where the boy lays. The camera passes through the mirror and enters the dim, shadowy "mirror world" as a low, ominous tone overtakes the sound of the television. The camera pans upward past the now-pockmarked face of the seizing boy, rising above the filthy floor to the grimy bed where the group of teens sit, now gaunt and sickly. The teens on the bed take no notice of the overdosing boy, because they too are high on meth. One shaking teen passes a meth pipe to another, while the voice over concludes "... but on meth, it is."
- Sisters - Two clean-cut teen girls approach three men in their 30s drinking beer next to a gas station. The older teen, appearing about 15, hesitantly propositions them: "Hey, guys... you can do anything you want to me, for fifty bucks." There is a pause. One of the men gestures to the younger, middle-school-aged girl, who looks frightened, and the man says, "Well, what about her?" The older teen looks aside, her face blank, and says, "Sure." A female voice-over says, "This isn't normal...", as the man who spoke pushes open the bathroom door. The camera cuts to the interior of the filthy bathroom as they enter. The girls' faces are now pocked and bleeding. The camera pans to the dirty bathroom mirror. We see the reflection of the mute, younger girl, standing terrified in the corner, as the man who requested her removes his coat. The other man reaches up to pull back the older girl's hair, as the voice-over says, "... but on meth, it is."
2010: Directed by Wally Pfister
In this round of work, directed by Wally Pfister, we hear friends of meth addicts tell stories of how they watched their friend’s lives get destroyed by the drug. In each spot, the viewer hears the teen telling the story of how their friend’s life fell apart, while the viewer sees the environments where the terrible events took place. At the end of each commercial, the teen telling the story appears on camera and utters the following sentence: "...and this is what I said, when they told me they were going to try meth." The teenagers then stare in anguished silence into the camera, showing that when they had the opportunity to stop their friend from trying meth, they chose to remain silent.
- Jessica - The spot begins on an empty football field. A young man’s voice speaks over picture saying, "This is where she used to be a cheerleader." The scene changes to a dirty bathroom. The young man’s voice says, "This is the sink where she started pulling out her eyebrows." The scene continues to change, showing the hallway of an abandoned building where her dealer raped her, and the backyard where she forced her little brother to smoke it with her. Finally the young man who is telling the story appears on camera, he looks into the lens and says: "...and this is what I said, when she told me she was going to try meth." The boy falls silent and just stares into the lens.
- Ben - The camera moves across an empty living room. We see quick flashes of a young boy going into convulsions on the couch. A girl’s voice speaks over picture saying, "This is where he went into convulsions." The scene shifts to a hospital operating room and we hear her say, "This is the emergency room where he almost died." As the commercial continues, the camera shows the alley where he smoked meth again after he got out and, finally, the storeroom where he hung himself because he couldn’t quit. The camera closes in on a frayed length of rope still hanging from a beam. In the last scene the girl who has been telling the story appears on camera and says: "...and this is what I said, when he told me he was going to try meth." The girl falls silent and just stares into the lens.
- Tracy - The commercial starts in an empty clothing store. A teenage girl’s voice says, "This is the store she got fired from." Quick flashbacks show a young girl’s hand stealing money from the store register. The scene changes to a suburban house and we hear the girl say, "This is the house she broke into." The scene changes again to show the motel room where she started selling her body and the hospital incubator that contains the baby she gave birth to two months early. In the last scene, the girl who has been telling the story sits in front of the camera, looks up and says: "...and this is what I said, when she told me she was going to try meth." Then she falls silent and just stares into the lens.
- Kevin - The commercial opens on students walking down a typical high school hallway. A teenage boy’s voice talks over the picture saying, "This is the high school he dropped out of." The scene changes to show an area of ground under the bleachers. The voice says, "This is where he beat up his best friend." Images of a fight between two teenage boys flash across the screen and then disappear. The scene transitions to show the pair of rusty scissors he used to dig imaginary bugs out from under his skin to the isolation room in a mental institution where he now spends 23 hrs. a day. Finally the narrator of the story, a teenage boy, appears on camera. He looks up and says: "...and this is what I said, when he told me he was going to try meth." The boy falls silent and just stares into the lens.
- View Ads
- About Us: Model, Montana Meth Project
- Success Of Anti-meth Ads Questioned By Study, ScienceDaily, December 11, 2008
- Benefits of graphic anti-meth ads questioned, Reuters, December 19, 2008
- The 25 Best Givers, Barron's 2010, December 4, 2010
- The Top 25 Best Philanthropists, Barron's 2009, November 28, 2009
- Meth Project Foundation gets high Barron’s rank, Billings Gazette, November 30, 2009
- Don’t Allow Methamphetamine to Ruin Your Life, Psychology Today, September 2, 2009
- Montana Meth
- Statement of David Erceg-Hurn to Governor Schweitzer and Montana Legislature regarding funding of Montana Meth Project in 2009 budget, February 09, 2009
- 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Montana Office of Public Instruction
- 2005 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
- 2006 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
- 2007 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
- 2008 Montana Meth Use and Attitudes Survey
- Montana State Office of Public Instruction Report
- The Meth Project Fact Sheet
- Catalytic Philanthropy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2009
- Pushing Back Against Meth: A Progress Report on the Fight Against Methamphetamine in the United States, Office of National Drug Control Policy, November 30, 2006
- Methamphetamine in Montana: A Preliminary Report on Trends and Impact January, 2007.
- Methamphetamine in Montana A Follow-up Report on Trends and Progress. April, 2008.
- Erceg-Hurn, David M. (August 7, 2008). "Drugs, Money, and Graphic Ads: A Critical Review of the Montana Meth Project". Prevention Science 9 (4): 256–263. doi:10.1007/s11121-008-0098-5. ISSN 1573-6695. PMID 18686033. http://www.springerlink.com/content/t3575m0w40653lh7.
- An expensive habit: State pledges $2 million to Montana Meth Project, Missoula Independent, April 19, 2007
- Press Release - White House Cites Montana Meth Project as Model For The Nation
- Governor Wants More Information on Meth Project Study, Associated Press, December 19, 2008 (originally here)
- Meth Project Study Author Declines Visit, by Matt Gouras (Associated Press), Great Falls Tribune, December 20, 2008 (originally here )
- Veto Pen: Schweitzer Cuts Some Meth Project Funding and Welcome Home Program, May 14, 2009
- Montana Meth Project MAM Release, Montana Meth Project
- Helena IR 21609, Montana Meth Project
- Montana Meth Project, Electric City Weblog, January 1st, 2009
- More Montana Meth PR Before the Rally: The Gazette Pre-Announces a Successful Rally!, Intelligent Discontent, February 16, 2009
- Paint the State Montana Paint the State Montana
- Paint the State Idaho Paint the State Idaho
- Paint the State 2006 Paint the State 2006
- Montana Meth Project: Message heard, results debated, Ed Kemmick, Billings Gazette, Sunday, July 5, 2009
- $20M spent in anti-meth campaign, Ed Kemmick, Billings Gazette, Sunday, July 5, 2009
- State's Largest Demonstration Captured in Meth Project Documentary Helena Independent Record, April 21, 2009
- Study Questions Value of Anti-Meth Campaign. Washington Post, December 11, 2008
- Graphic anti-meth ads catching on. Stateline, October 4, 2007
- Is the Project working?, Missoula Independent, September 27, 2007
- Why The Montana Meth Project Isn't All It's Cranked Up To Be, Missoula Independent, August 3, 2006
- Montana Meth Project, Montana site. Newest ads are listed first.
- Meth Project Foundation, national site. Oldest ads are listed first.
- Montana Meth Project category at Intelligent Discontent