As marijuana becomes more poplar than ever given the current state of legislation in and around the country, many are wondering what advertising will look like for this new market. In states that have legislation put forward for the world of cannabis, many companies have still managed to have a difficult time in advertising their products.
Two of the main opponents to the advertising of cannabis products continue to be Facebook and subsequently Instagram. The two have prohibited the posting of ads that directly promote the sale of cannabis. This resistance in the market means that retailers and producers have needed to go around traditional methods for advertising to find new ways. With legal sales of cannabis passing $6 billion in the last year, it seems like advertising is only just beginning.
One of the largest cannabis retailers in California is known as MedMen. MedMen has been nicknamed the new “Starbucks of cannabis” and has seen a large amount of demand reporting increases of almost 500% with the new legislation. Even though the company has done so well, MedMen has been forced to use advertising methods such as delivery trucks to showcase their product. The chief marketing officer for MedMen, B.J. Carretta stated that “it is absolutely challenging. When you can’t really run Instagram or Facebook ads, that takes a big chunk out of your standard media plays.”
One new campaign that has been run is known as “Forget Stoner.” This campaign has been targeting the markets of Nevada and California and the perceptions of those who have a more traditional view of cannabis use. The advertising campaign has used a variety of people including police officers, ex-NFL players and grandmothers to help show the fact that cannabis use is quite diverse. MedMen used around $2 million in their budget to put out this advertising with around 35 billboards as well as print publications in several magazines and newspapers. Although the company has some serious cash to back up their advertisements, traditional newspapers like the Los Angeles Times have still declined to run their ads. One spokesperson for the LA Times stated that the newspaper has “run a limited number of advertisements for marijuana, following legal and ethical guidelines.” She also stated that she is not fully familiar with the ads by MedMen, but there are many reasons that they could reject the add or ask for revision.
The state of California has reportedly been allowing the advertisement of cannabis throughout broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital communications. In these locations, over 70% of the audience is expected to be over the age of 21, which is the target audience. These rules are similar to that of the alcohol industry. One of the main issues is that the substance is still banned on a nationwide level, leading to many challenges when adverting amongst other issues. Carretta further stated that “Digital is hard because a lot of the publishers don’t geofence all the time. So technically you could be promoting cannabis across state lines into a state where it is not legal.” With a lack go guidelines around where the advertisements are being sent, it could mean some unwanted trouble in the near future. The hopes are high that these advertisements are able to be seen by the broader public given the individual standing of cannabis across many states. Only time will tell how easy it becomes for companies to advertise their marijuana products as if they were any other good. The future does look bright for the industry on cannabis, but only if companies are able to be treated like any other industry.
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