I'm Super Jealous WeedMaps Can Afford a Super Bowl Ad






I was lamenting to my friend Kristen Yoder about how much I hate seeing cannabis brands doing "Super Bowl Ads."


"Yeah," she texted back, "Sometimes I gotta check in with my anger and find that it's jealousy, or ego." Bitch, now I gotta write a blog post.


Why am I like this?


Is it because I have so much ego and pride that I can't be happy about advances in the industry?

Is it because I know what it takes (and costs) to produce a Super Bowl campaign and I'm jealous that other companies are further ahead than me in funding, time in the game, reach, etc?

Is it because I know advertising is a game, and I love and hate the game?


YES it is all of this.


In case you're not a marketer, it costs upwards of $15million to place an ad on the Super Bowl. This includes your :30 second ad, digital media, and mandatory media buys across other network properties. This is before you pay for the production of the ad itself (a cheap shoot would be about $500k), the advertising agency ($250K) and the PR agency ($150K). These are all really low-end numbers.


So here is my take on the recent Cannabis "Super Bowl Ads." And, how I think they'd fare in #Brandbowl which is the advertising world's version of "The Big Game."


1) WeedMaps:


First of all, it's clear that this was a stunt. WeedMaps and their agencies decided to "do a Super Bowl ad," knowing full well NBC would reject it. This stunt has been done before. It worked! WeedMaps got tons of press for this ad and through that they were able to raise awareness of the issue they're fighting; censorship of cannabis content by mainstream media.

Second, as far as the creative itself...meh -- the concept is funny -- Broccoli (Brock Ollie) is upset because everyone thinks he's "broccoli" aka how cannabis gets past the censors in media. The YouTube version, which is :90 seconds, does an OK job of explaining the fact that Broccoli is being used instead of cannabis and Brock wants cannabis not to have to be a secret anymore. The "hook" of this ad is hard to understand and takes :90 seconds to get. If I was a regular Super Bowl watcher, I don't think I would understand it. If they were to cut this ad down to :30, they'd probably take a few of the vignettes out and still end with the same "pot" & "leaf" ending (which is probably the funniest part of the whole spot). I think it's a lot to try to convey in :30 considering how little is known about cannabis in the mainstream.


Besides the fact that if it were on the Super Bowl everyone would talk about it because of cannabis, I don't think it's a great ad through a marketing lens. But, also WeedMaps is about to launch an app (Hi-Curious' first big competitor), so I am generally miffed at them so probably have no objectivity.


Finally, this ad feels like it's speaking to cannabis users (which might be the strategy), but it's not speaking to the mainstream. Here's the thing: the mainstream doesn't care that there's no cannabis content on their media. In fact, they are happy without it. It makes their lives easier. They don't want to "talk about it." And, until federal legalization happens (and for years after), the mainstream media is not going to jeopardize revenue by taking on cannabis businesses.

We are going to have to work harder. But, the good news is that people WANT to learn about cannabis. I used to bang this angry drum; lamenting "why isn't cannabis acceptable on the big platforms?" Then, I built my own. They will come, just not as fast as you want them to!


2. Cann


I love Cann's irreverent branding. But, I don't love all of their executions. I think it's because of the brand positioning. Cann's positioning is squarely attempting to convert alcohol users. And, they have referred to cannabis as "drugs" which is a turn-off for me.


My personal bias aside, I think focusing on a specific segment in this way is genius, laser-focused marketing strategy and Cann is the brand currently doing the best in this space.

Given Cann's cannabis > alcohol stance, putting the brand in the context of The Big Game, where beer is a top advertiser and ingredient in many parties, makes a lot of sense. I think their "Substance Equality" is a cute campaign concept. Given that the brand has demonstrated that IT is about equality with its LGBTQ support and clear love of counter-culture, I think this brand has earned the right to use this term.


But, I wouldn't have touched the word equality as a brand run by a white man in an industry where Black men are in prison for what Cann is building a future on. That said, I always err on the side of caution in that department and I still think the campaign works.

Truth be told, my jealous, ego-driven POV is that the Super Bowl is a chance for the advertising industry and the brands that support them to show off how mighty their wallets and creativity are.


Catch me Sunday watching the ads and the half-time show, taking breaks during the game to cook wings and a pie for my family.

Happy American Football Holiday. May the best ad win.


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