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This Canadian Cannabis Advisory Ad Is Full-On Trippy

Here at Leafly we’ve long recognized the difficulty of crafting an ad campaign aimed at steering minors away from cannabis.

It’s an admirable goal. It’s nearly impossible to pull off. Teens (the audience) are notoriously cynical. Adults (the producers) are famously bad at speaking their language. In recent years we’ve seen some efforts go bad from the start (Colorado’s “Don’t Be a Lab Rat” campaign) and others achieve a kind of unintended notoriety (Australia’s “Stoner Sloth” concept).

And then there are the historical classics. Get high on yourself. Just say no. This is your brain on drugs.

So yeah, it ain’t easy.

Last week the provincial government of Northwest Territories unveiled its campaign aimed at informing minors about cannabis, and steering them away from its use.

The “augmented reality” animation is by turns mind-blowing, creepy, kinda cool, and in all ways weird.

The whole package has a lot to unpack: actually pretty decent advice; partnering with an authentic young artist from Yellowknife; the local culture incorporated into design, language, and message; and then just the sheer hallucinogenic quality of the thing.

Canada’s Cabin Radio has a nice piece explaining the origin of the campaign:

The ads are the first part of a scheme backed by $1.8 million from Health Canada to help the territorial government create a “comprehensive and interactive cannabis public education campaign.”

Four augmented-reality ads, unveiled on Friday at Yellowknife’s public library, feature northern icons like an Inukshuk and raven delivering advice on cannabis use and its effects.

Using an app on their phones, youth will be able to see comics containing the ads come to life on posters and in magazines to be distributed across the territory.

“The posters you see in front of you today? The youth and Elders were engaged and we got a significant amount of input from them,” Glen Abernethy, the territory’s health minister, told Cabin Radio. Reporter Ollie Williams noted that Abernethy “found one panel, featuring the aurora taking the form of an unborn baby, to be ‘creepy’ – but said it had the desired effect on youth.”

The panels were created by Cody Fennell, a Vancouver-based artist, designer, and filmmaker who was born and raised in the provincial capital of Yellowknife. Which—full credit to Glen Abernethy and the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority. Fennell is a local artist, of and from the community, and he embodies the kind of authenticity needed to pull this kind of thing off.

Check out Fennell and his work in this video—and don’t miss the design on his sneakers around the 1:16 mark.

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image
Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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