The public’s shown a growing concern with advertising’s impact on lifestyle choices – and this is turn has led to increased regulation, like the recent bans on junk food and body-shaming. While these rules have posed limitations for some brands, they hardly compare to the obstacles faced by cannabis growers in Canada (no, really!), after the public sale of cannabis was legalised last June.
Following public consultations, Health Canada established strict rules regulating the advertisement of cannabis products. They have banned broadcast campaigns, sponsorships, celebrity endorsements, animals and animated characters – anything that attracts kids or teens. They have also stipulated that cannabis ads cannot convey glamour, recreation, risk or excitement in any way. Infringement of any of the rules could lead not only to millions in fines – but even jailtime.
Budding cannabis brands have had to find creative ways to reach their potential new market. Some have generated hype in the lead-up to legalisation by debuting cannabis-flavoured or inspired products first, like MedReleaf’s beer or AltaVie’s toffee. Others, like Royal Canadian, have created tongue-in-cheek imagery for social media that covertly conveys their message. Branded experiential events that don’t feature the actual product, like MedReleaf’s mindfulness sessions, have also helped brands toe the line.
Media and tech agencies are proactively looking for solutions too. Future Farm Technologies sees an opportunity for innovation in augmented reality, developing AR-enhanced packaging that transforms under a smart phone. Marketing agency Snipp Interactive has signed up producers to its promotions and loyalty campaigns, including Corona maker Constellation Brands.
Although talks of legalisation are still in the incubation stage in the UK, our own growing public health concerns beg the question of how far brands should push the limit of what is deemed ‘decent’ to get their product noticed. For example, YouGov has reported that 61% of Brits support a junk food advertising ban. To keep these consumers onside, advertisers should do more than cleverly sidestep red tape. Instead, they should ask how they can genuinely bring advertising in line with the ‘public good’?