Wednesday, August 27, 2008

(Les 'me like money' Pappas, head of Better World Advertising. Photo credit: Rick Gerharter.)

'Me Not Meth' Contracts for
$17.5 Million Released by CA

Earlier this year the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, through several social marketing campaign agencies, including the Better World Advertising agency in San Francisco, launched a massive effort targeting gay men about meth use.

Other than generating a very comfortable stream of income for gay ad executives, and one in particular, Les Pappas, the head of Better World Advertising, I'm not convinced that these campaigns are effective at creating anything of substantive benefit for the gay community or maintaining good health habits for gay men.

There is no independent evaluation of all the alarming HIV/AIDS and meth campaigns funded by government dollars in the past two decades, but lack of proof that the campaigns are driving down infection rates or increasing testing patterns is no reason to halt funding these media campaigns.

I think whenever gay men are being targeted by such social marketing, the contracts behind the campaigns must be made public on the web, which is why I recently filed a public records request with the state for their "Me Not Meth" contracts. Gay men need to know exactly why the campaigns are being launched, what the ad agencies hope to accomplish, and how the gay community is expected to react.

The alcohol and drug programs for California sent me two contracts for "Me Not Meth." The first is for the initial outlay of state funds, $14,037,197. And the second contract details how an additional $3,505,912 in public money is being spent. Together, the contracts explain how $17.5 million for ads will potentially address the gay meth problem.

That $17.5 million figure, by the way, is a lot higher than the $10 million the San Francisco AIDS Foundation said was the cost of the campaign.

From the SFAF release:

This initiative began when the San Francisco AIDS Foundation led a coalition of HIV/AIDS advocacy and service organizations, including the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and the California HIV Alliance, which urged Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature to address the alarming relationship between methamphetamine and HIV infection. The final state budget the Governor signed in 2006 granted $10 million to the California Department of Drugs and Alcohol for this “Me, Not Meth” media campaign.

Whether it's $10 or $17.5 million, AIDS groups sure have a special ATM relationship with health agencies and politicians in Sacramento.

Follow the links to read contract number 1 and number 2 from the state.

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