No Risk Please, We’re Canadian: New Ad Rules May Be a Challenge
Is it possible to advertise a product or brand without pointing out its positive attributes?
Canadians may soon find out.
Canada’s new legalization legislation includes a number of odd, curious, and interesting rules.
In its zeal to prevent the rise of Joe Camel-style ad campaigns targeting teens—an admirable and appropriate goal, in all seriousness—government lawmakers have presented cannabis companies with an extremely tight needle to thread.
The new law generally prohibits cannabis advertising that “appeals to young persons” or connects cannabis to a way of life that includes “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring.”
That’s a pretty wide net.
We did a little research into current and past legal cannabis ads in the United States that could be prohibited under this language. They include Dama’s “outdoor lifestyle” ad, which appeared on a billboard last summer in downtown Seattle, and pretty much strikes all six notes pure and true:
This Dixie Elixir ad, with its bold evocation of daring, probably wouldn’t make the cut.
But this Dixie ad, with its more general appeal to positive feeling, is more likely to pass muster.
Medicine Man’s stylized logo? Perfectly fine.
Things get trickier when a logo incorporates an animal, insect, or bird. Animal imagery is often appealing to children. Here are some brand images from High Altitude Extracts and Marley Natural:
High Altitude comes pretty close to the line, with its cartoonish bee—wearing a crown, no less. Marley Natural’s classic pen-and-ink lion (an evocation of Marley’s Rastafarian roots) is an animal, which is generally a red flag, but the visual cue is adult, almost olde Victorian.
Two years ago this television ad
for Neos almost made it on the air in Denver, but got yanked at the last minute. It got plenty of play anyway, thanks to the controversy. Glamour? Check. Recreation? Check. Vitality and excitement? Yes and yes.
Likewise, the commercial Legal produced for its cannabis-infused beverages practically screams glamour, excitement, and vitality. If you’re looking for that Portlandia kind of glamour.
Is this Incredible Extracts “gooey-e” logo cartoonish, exciting, and/or glamourous? Or is it sticky and gross? And what about the “Extracts” lettering: Its graffiti art vibe could be considered, in the eyes of a government regulator, quite daring.
And then there’s this well-branded illustration of glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk and daring.
Look, to a lot of people 40 and older, Willie Nelson actually embodies all those attributes. Hell yeah. But to a young person, that’s just a picture of a really old dude with braids setting his hand on fire.
Finally there’s this example of vitality and recreation from our very own Leafly, which made history a few years ago as the first marijuana-related ad to run in the New York Times.
Vitality? Yes. Recreation? Affirmative. Legal in a post-prohibition Canada? Probably not.
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