36.1 C

Cannabis Retailer Skirts Ad Rules With Help From Neighbors



For the dopest mani-pedi in town, head over to Nu Nail where the designs are “anything but half baked.” And if you’re looking for something a little more cerebral, try Cliffside Books for “high-quality inspiration” while pondering existential questions like: what came first, the flower or the seed?

Ads for these Toronto-based businesses—slightly cheesy and charmingly lo-fi—are, in fact, touting acrylics and bestsellers. They’re also not-so-subtly promoting the weed shop next door, a dispensary chain called Stok’d, whose agency hacked the stringent Canadian advertising rules for a first-of-its-kind campaign.

By partnering with neighboring businesses, Stok’d and Angry Butterfly launched a “legal-ish” campaign that managed to buy media on Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Spotify and other seemingly impenetrable “buzzkill” channels, per the indie agency’s partner and CEO Brent Choi.

Hiding in plain sight and lacing the scripts with THC-spiked innuendos, Stok’d got face time alongside florists, sub shops, electricians and other merchants for a month-long social video and out-of-home campaign now in its final days.

“Technically we’re not doing anything wrong, and we can argue that everything is legal,” Choi told ADWEEK. “Still, we were a bit nervous that the campaign would get shut down or we’d get fined or kicked off the platforms.”

A ‘pirate’ industry

The U.S. has its own complicated guidelines on how weed companies can advertise, with rules varying from state to state. Federal prohibition means that many major media channels—TikTok, Google, Instagram and others—reject cannabis marketing wholesale.

In Canada, where cannabis has been federally legal since 2018, the regulations are far stricter. Brands can’t buy billboards, radio or newspaper ads, and they can’t use testimonials or endorsements touting sale prices and physical effects of a dispensary’s product. In fact, the ads can’t use people at all or show the inside of any government-licensed weed retailer.

Though the industry has become more mainstream, it retains a “pirate” vibe, Choi said, and new client Stok’d was open to a slyly covert concept that tested boundaries.

It was the “playful and entrepreneurial approach” that appealed to the leadership at Stok’d, according to Lisa Bigioni, CEO and co-founder of the chain. “Once we learned more about how it would work, we realized it was an incredibly innovative way to promote our stores.”

Subscribe to our magazine

━ more like this

Apple backtracks and approves the first PC emulator for iOS

UTM SE is a PC emulator that allows you to run classic software and old-school games.* Supports both VGA mode for graphics and...

Biden says ‘everybody must condemn’ attack on Trump as campaign halts messaging to supporters and pulls TV ads

President Joe Biden said Saturday that “everybody must condemn” the suspected assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, adding that he hoped to speak with his 2024 presidential...

Donald Trump taken off stage during rally after apparent gunshots; Secret Service says he is safe

Donald Trump’s campaign said in a statement that he was “fine” after being whisked off the stage at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania...

Call your shot: Investors are buying individual stocks at a record pace as market-beating bets dwindle to lowest ever

More investors are calling their shots and picking out individual stocks to buy as market gains become concentrated in an increasingly narrow range...

A trip to Shanghai’s AI mega-conference showed me that China’s developers are still playing catch-up to Silicon Valley

Last week, Shanghai hosted China’s largest AI event: The World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC), with 500 exhibitors, 1,500 exhibits, over 300,000 attendees, and...