A new-ish, tech-funded political advocacy group is putting flippant “That’s Fentalife!” ads across town, hoping that sardonic jokes about the fentanyl crisis will get people angrier at SF elected officials.
We noted last month that there was a new batch of tech-money funded political advocacy groups that seem to have a lot more money than they have actual members. And much of that money comes from the tech industry, as is the case with one of these groups called TogetherSF Action, a political advocacy group hoping to spend $3 million over the next two elections, largely funded by SF Standard financier Michael Moritz.
But when your money comes from the tech industry, you might make typical tech industry mistakes, like, say, the tone-deaf 2015 Airbnb “Dear San Francisco” ad campaign over which that company eventually apologized and took down the ads.
So I guess we’ll see whether it is considered a misstep that Together SF Action has placed whimsical-looking ads hoping to get you riled up over the fentanyl crisis, according to the Chronicle, using the tagline “That’s Fentalife!” The image above is a mock-up and not real (much like the claim that “Farmers markets are out” is also not real, as precisely zero farmers markets have been canceled for any reason other than weather) though real ads ones are being put up. The ads come with QR code to a send a letter complaining to City Hall, a letter which they have completely written for you and you don’t get to change the wording.
When it’s possible for your infant to accidentally OD at the park, #ThatsFentalife.— TogetherSF Action (@TSFAction) May 16, 2023
City Hall needs a better plan to remove drug markets from our city streets. Send your letter now: https://t.co/jszhdxiONq pic.twitter.com/cX2E7USGc9
SFGate interviewed TogetherSF Action executive director Kanishka Cheng, a former staffer for Mayor Breed and former supervisor Mark Farrell, about the glib and sarcastic tone of the ads. “The reason that it looks flippant or cheerful is to draw a sharp contrast to the darkness of the reality,” Cheng told SFGate. “The point of the font and bright colors is to draw contrast; it's about what should be this bright California lifestyle we aspire to have in San Francisco versus the reality playing out on our streets.”
According to the Chronicle, this anti-fentanyl ad campaign will cost $300,000. But hey, group funded by tech executives, it seems to me from the Bob Lee stabbing stories that maybe tech executives are doing some drugs now and then too!
Politicizing Narcan – a medicine that saves thousands of lives in SF every year.— Mr MR (@21five_public) May 16, 2023
That’s a new low from TogetherSF. https://t.co/q822hRpfhK
And the tone of some of these ads seems legitimately anti-Narcan, which is pretty odd if saving human lives was the group’s actual motivation.
SFist received an email press release announcing the campaign from a PR firm called Riff City Strategies, who have previously been involved with promoting Moritz’s “Even Democrats Like Me Are Fed Up With San Francisco” New York Times op-ed, sending Brooke Jenkins press releases, and (?) promoting cannabis dispensaries.
Riff City’s press release for the “That’s Fentalife!” ad campaign says that “The campaign’s green, blue, purple and pink dot imagery marked with ‘30’s and ‘M’s is the friendly and inviting look of rainbow fentanyl. This intentional brightness and irony, juxtaposed with the conditions of Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, demonstrates how bold messaging needs to be in order to break through to residents and elected leaders who are widely numb to everyday tragedy.”
These sound like the words of someone who actually thinks it was a good investment to pay some marketing type big money to come up with the incredibly ineffective phrase "That’s Fentlife!”
If you had $300,000 to spend to alleviate the fentanyl crisis, is this what you would do with it? The goal here seems to be divisiveness and shit-stirring rather than any public health outcome. Also, I can’t see any way this campaign has a positive impact on the more than 60 overdose deaths per month San Francisco is currently suffering. But I can see how this campaign will make some PR firms and political consultants a little wealthier in the short term.
Image: Together SFAction