At first I thought it was a joke.
Stoner Sloth, a creation of the NSW Government, is a human-sized pot-smoking sloth who looks a lot like Chewbacca. He/she lives a typical teenage life of school, parties and family dinners. However, due to frequent 'blazing', Stoner Sloth struggles with daily life.
The Stoner Sloth website contains short videos and gifs of the giant sloth failing at three different activities: exams, normal conversation, and my favourite -- passing the salt (which he confuses with the salad bowl). Each of the videos ends with Stoner Sloth making sad animal noises while his friends, family and teacher look on with disappointment.
The short videos and gifs are clearly aimed at teens, with titles including 'When you're blazed at your family dinner', 'Passing the salt...the struggle is real', and 'Life of the party...said no one ever'. They contain accompanying hashtags such as #stonersloth #youreworseonweed #hsc #exam #selie #embarrassing and #stoned.
Supposedly, the purpose of these videos are to show young people the short-term consequences of marijuana. Let's acknowledge the oversized sloth in the room here -- the whole campaign is nonsensical, slightly patronising to teenagers, and also quite hilarious.
YouTube: StonerSloth Compilation
But there's a bigger issue: we actually paid for this crap.
There are several questions I believe Australians need the answers to, including: How much did this campaign cost? What information are young people actually supposed to take from this? And, what research led the NSW Government to believe an oversized sloth would be the best way to communicate their message?
According to Fairfax, a spokesperson for The Department of Premier and Cabinet stated that the campaign was "informed by research conducted by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre", and was "designed to appeal to, and be 'shareable' among, teenagers who are some of the most vulnerable to cannabis use."
"While we wish the NSW Government luck in future cannabis campaigns, the current Stoner Sloth campaign doesn't reflect NCPIC views on how cannabis harms campaigns should be approached, as was implied by the media"
Ouch. How #embarassing.
On a positive note, the NSW Government certainly achieved their goal of creating something 'shareable'. Twitter is buzzing with #StonerSloth tweets, with the hairy mascot quickly going viral for all the wrong reasons. Even NSW Premier Mike Baird joined in on the hilarity, tweeting twice about the #StonerSloth campaign:
"Just saw the #StonerSloth ads. Not sure where NSW Gov's ad guys found Chewbaccas siblings, but those videos are... Quite something", followed shortly by a second tweet, "I've been assured no sloths were harmed in the making of those #StonerSloth ads."
Just saw the #StonerSloth ads. Not sure where NSW Gov's ad guys found Chewbaccas siblings, but those videos are... Quite something.— Mike Baird (@mikebairdMP) December 19, 2015
While my 17-year-old son and I have thoroughly enjoyed our morning sitting in front of the computer laughing at Stoner Sloth, I'm not sure the NSW Premier is entitled to join in on the #LOLs.
The only thing I've taken from all this -- apart from a laugh -- is that the Government needs to be held more accountable for how it spends our money.