Two Washington-based recreational cannabis companies have deployed commercial campaigns, potentially laying the groundwork for the next phase of cannabis advertising.
Both commercials are unique and aesthetically appealing. Avitas Agriculture’s 41-second “Get Creative” spot is the first of a planned three-video campaign for the company. According to Avitas CEO Adam Smith, the content — featuring a 20-something white male smoking concentrates and painting a mountain-scape — is loosely based on an employee who “smokes sativas and paints.”
“I think it’s representative of our brand because it’s fun, it’s irreverent,” Smith said in an interview with Ganjapreneur. “We figure ourselves as being craftsman of our product so we don’t take ourselves seriously about it. We’re representing how some people might use our product in different settings.”
The 93-second music video ad for Mirth Provisions’ Legal soda brand features attendees at a backyard barbecue popping bottles; it utilizes a catchy tune featuring lyrics explaining the potential effects of each of the four flavors.
Adam Stites, founder of Mirth Provisions, said the lyrical content is the most important aspect of the spot because it’s hard to convey on a label what effects a consumer can expect in terms of strength and length.
“In an increasingly crowded world where edibles are all getting commoditized, marijuana is getting more and more complex… it’s overwhelming the consumer,” Stites said. “It’s much more complex than THC. We wanted to have a video that was lighthearted and fun but also communicated what our product was.”
While Mirth Provisions secured director James Westby for their spot — whose film “Rid of Me” was featured at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival — Avitas’ ad was produced by Brandon Van. Van is a 23-year-old extraction technician for Avitas, who plans on attending the Seattle Film Institute in September. He submitted a video resume as part of his Avita application.
The commercial is a first for Van, who recruited friends from college and high school to act in and help produce the spot with the blessing of his boss. He wanted to make sure the final product was “as simple as possible” for the audience to understand, in an effort to expand its marketing potential.
“What was ‘simple’ for me was to have music, no dialogue and a good message,” Van said. “Everyone wants to be creative and people relate weed to creativity… so I figured what’s a better way to do that than a simple painting that the ‘average Joe’ was doing.”
Despite taking different creative paths, both companies created their ads with some discretion, taking the rules governing alcohol advertising and applying them to their own pieces.
Although the Federal Communications Commission has not outlined rules for cannabis commercials, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board rules for advertising prohibit companies from advertising “marijuana or marijuana products in any form through any medium whatsoever within one-thousand feet of the perimeter of a school ground, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged twenty-one years or older.”
The board suggests companies consult with the FCC, media-buyers and attorneys for television protocols. The FCC did not respond when questioned about their plans for cannabis advertising.
However, neither company plans on any television media buys. Both companies indicated that they are currently working on publishing the spots as YouTube ads – but YouTube is owned by Google, who has previously rejected medical marijuana ads due to its policy against promoting “dangerous products or services.”
Smith indicated that his company is still working on getting the green light from the world’s largest video sharing site, and said the process “takes time and comes with pretty serious conditions.”
“More than anything it is really just for us to experiment with the medium,” he said. “It’s all brand new. We’re trying to test the boundaries of what is allowed.”
Mirth Provisions’ spot was approved by YouTube “after some initial pushback,” Stites said, on the condition that the ads will air in states with a formal market, to users 21 and older.
Smith did not have a timeline for Avitas’ next videos, but they will have themes of “Get Relaxed” and spending time with friends. Stites anticipates the commercial for his company’s sublingual spray, Drift, will be released in the next 30 days.