A major bill has been floating around MA since last week that showcases some interesting changes to the cannabis laws. One surprising notice was that recreational cannabis products could be taxed as high as 28%, which is twice as high as the original format at 12%. That number may be high, but there’s even some more shocking changes that must be discussed.
Advertising could be SEVERLY limited under the proposed changes. The new proposal would limit the use of radio, billboards, TV, print, and even internet (which could include social media!) for advertising cannabis companies. These advertising tactics would be available ONLY if 71.6% of the audience is over 21. None of the ads could be targeted to any under 21 nor can the users depicted in the ad as well.
As a PR pro that delves into the creative advertising world, my first answer to these shocking advertising rules is ‘What…The FUCK.’
71.6 of the audience over 21? Where the hell in MA can the mad men lock down their targeted audiences for their ad campaign? Boston? Somerville? Brighton/Allston?
Seriously though guy…this is NOT good at all! Aside from the tax issue (cannabis WILL be taxed since it’s such a useful commodity!), these ad proposals put a serious damper for the advertising business. Creative directors, copywriters, art directors, media buyers, and all other creative geniuses won’t be able to launch their huge campaigns if they only cater to areas where 71.6 of the audience is over 21! Cannabis companies WILL be shipping to Boston in the next few years and the severe lack of advertisements will only put the industry to a halt.
To better explain this problem, let’s take Don Draper and his creative team from the Mad Men universe as our leading example (since Don is the sexy creative genius of the Mad Men world!). Supposed Don’s team relocated to Boston and are working with clients within the cannabis industry. Members of the cannabis companies meet with Don’s team to discuss the new ad campaigns they would be working on.
Don’s team CAN work on drafting the ad campaign, but they won’t reach the large number of audiences they want to reach since the areas HAVE to be mostly over 21. Their advertising strategies would only work in very few places in Massachusetts. If Don’s team doesn’t reach the intended numbers after running the campaigns, then cannabis companies could take their business elsewhere (to a more 4/20-friendly state like California or Maine). This would mean that most of the work coming from Don, Roger, Joan, Peggy, and Pete won’t be enough to keep themselves afloat.
Advertising agencies would want to work with the ever-trending cannabis industry to deliver the best advertising campaigns, but they won’t be able to do that if they can’t reach the amount of audiences they need. It will be a complicated challenge for the Boston mad men if the advertising proposals pass. Cannabis’s image is heavily plagued by the PR nightmare caused by the Reefer Madness scandal and revitalizing PR tactics are our only solution. To put it in another way, advertising is going to need some serious help from public relations on flourishing cannabis’s reputation before any amazing image can be shown. The mad men do have the image (the pot leaf!), but that universal image must be repaired before any advertising tactics are set.
While I didn’t go to Salem State University for advertising, this issue is still important to me as a former PR student. Cannabis is the hottest new commodity sweeping the nation since being legalized and audiences are looking to get their hands on it any way they can. With legality issues standing in the way of communicative creativity, business will become sluggish for industries like advertising and marketing. They are many aspiring individuals in PR, advertising, marketing, journalism, and other areas of communications that see a brighter future through cannabis. As the writer of entertainment PR stories at MakeSandcastlesNotWar, I take so much joy in informing the audience about the current cannabis trends. It’s been such an honor to write about an industry that was once so taboo where it was troublesome to even talk about it (let alone smoke it in the open!).
Recreational cannabis use is one of the hottest social issues here in America. There’s a brighter future out there for the cannabis industry and we need the most creative mad men out there to showcase that future to ALL audiences.