The Clio Awards announced last week that it was partnering with High Times to launch Clio Cannabis, a marketing and advertising awards competition for weed products. It’s a smart idea for both parties involved in the joint venture. Clio expands its reach, and High Times partners with a venerable brand to extend its quickly expanding empire and further legitimize weed as a no-big-deal way to unwind and treat a variety of ills. And with more agencies establishing marijuana divisions (Havas recently hung out the shingle on its weed practice), there should be no end of work to enter in the competition.
The news got me thinking about the state of play in cannabis marketing and advertising. My most frequent exposure to campaigns is the billboards I see when driving around Los Angeles, which I visit frequently. Some of the outdoor ads are great. Med Men’s Stoner campaign was a riff on Rolling Stone’s legendary Perception/Reality effort that started in the mid-1980s. And Weedmaps has run an outdoor campaign notable for being issue-oriented, addressing head-on some of the myths and misconceptions around legalizing pot.
I love that these ads treat both cannabis and the viewer maturely, as if weed were just another product, one that has been around and in use for a long time. Notably absent are the stoner wink-and-nod, elbow-in-the-ribs puns and gags that make so much of the marketing—and discourse—around cannabis feel so sophomoric. Cheech and Chong aren’t relevant any more, and Harold and Kumar can use an app to order from White Castle. Beer and wine ads never say the product is going to alter your consciousness; why should marijuana ads? The stuff makes you high: we get it. Still, a preponderance of the work looks like it took its prime inspiration from Grateful Dead concert posters, circa 1968, or from a reggae album—lots of Rastafarian color schemes.
Published: August 20, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News