Ad Agency Defends Mocked ‘Stoner Sloth’ Anti-Marijuana Campaign

December 28, 2015, 7:04 PM UTC
Photograph courtesy of New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet

The advertising agency behind an anti-marijuana campaign aimed at teens is now defending its ads, which have been roundly mocked and criticized online.

New York-based ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi created the “Stoner Sloth” ad campaign in Australia for the New South Wales government’s anti-marijuana efforts, but the video ads quickly went viral after launching last week and became subject to jokes and parody videos. The agency’s video ads show an anthropomorphized sloth struggling to perform simple tasks like passing salt at the dinner table or socializing at a party as well as performing poorly at school. Each ad ends with the same tagline and hashtag combo: “You’re worse on weed #stonersloth.”

Responding online, the ads’ critics have said that they make Australia’s government appear to be out of touch with youths, while proponents of medical marijuana (which the country’s lawmakers recently voted to legalize) have also criticized the ads. The backlash even caused Australia’s National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre to distance itself from the ads, with a statement clarifying that the government agency was not involved in the ads’ production except to “provided an initial basic analysis of other cannabis harms campaigns from Australia and around the world and general recommendations.”

However, Saatchi & Saatchi is still happy with the way the ads turned out. An agency representative told the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend that the campaign is aimed specifically at keeping teens from using marijuana and is not aimed at “adults or long-term cannabis users.” The ads have certainly reached a wide audience, with countless media mentions and millions of views on Facebook and YouTube. “The unexpected global media attention is now providing a platform for parents and teenagers all over the world to have ‘the conversation’ about cannabis in an engaging way,” the agency rep told the Morning Herald.