Marijuana is becoming increasingly mainstream, but it’s not yet mainstream enough to persuade television networks to let cannabis companies run commercials.
Just ask MedMen, which is the latest cannabis retailer to have a TV ad rejected after CBS rejected Acreage Holdings’ 30-second Super Bowl spot earlier this month.
The 8-year-old brand just released a new two-minute spot directed by Spike Jonze that was designed to air on the cable TV provider Spectrum’s channels in Southern California but was ultimately rejected, a Spectrum spokesman confirmed to Business Insider.
The spot, which chronicles the history of cannabis in the US, from George Washington’s hemp farm to the growing use of marijuana today, will instead air digitally and across connected TV devices and elsewhere including out-of-home and print.
Business Insider spoke with MedMen’s chief marketing officer, David Dancer, about the company’s quest to normalize cannabis and how it dealt with compliance issues, regulations, and the lingering stigma around the product.
The following interview has been condensed for clarity.
Tanya Dua:What are your biggest challenges?
David Dancer:There are regulatory hurdles on all of the messaging, creative, and channels. We need to meet a 21-plus threshold of who we’re targeting, and the regulations vary by state and then sometimes by county. But the greater complexity is really around the advertising and media. We have to spend a lot of time educating, showing the legitimacy of our message, the professionalism of our creative, and proving our credibility. It gets tiring. But even the places that reject us are all very interested. In the case of Spectrum, for example, it made its way all the way up to the very highest levels. Over time we’ll chip away and/or the federal law will change.
Dua:A lot of your time goes into educating people. Why is that necessary?
Dancer:We launched our first campaign over a year and a half ago, and it was called “It’s Legal,” which was very effective. The creative from that campaign is still our-top performing creative, which just signals that people still are not aware of the legality in their own state. So focusing on education and the benefits of cannabis is very important.
Dua:How has your messaging evolved?
Dancer:We used to focus on the mainstreaming of marijuana. The new campaign is about the normalization of cannabis. All of our cast were cast to show how they have used cannabis for a variety of reasons.
Dua:The majority of your audience presumably skews young. With those people increasingly cord-cutting, why use traditional TV?
Dancer:Our primary target audience in some states is utilizing alternate media. But you can reach an audience effectively through broadcast and do it fairly cost effectively. There’s something around that piece of breaking through and broadening the scale on the scope of who we can reach. It’s proven, tried and true.
Dua:Why do you handle your creative in-house?
Dancer:There’s a reaction time and an efficiency that we can gain. The reason it’s really important for us is around creative control and speed to market. When we do have special projects like a commercial where we need extra help, we certainly will get it; we worked with Mekanism for this campaign. I definitely don’t have the intention of having everything in-house.