Cannabis is now legal in Canada, but wait, why am I still seeing outdoor ads?

Here we are a couple of days after the legalization of cannabis in Canada, and for some reason I expected all Out Of Home ads to disappear in a puff of smoke on October 18th as they are clearly in line of sight of people under the age of 18.

After further review of Promotion Prohibitions of the Cannabis Act, I'm now wondering if there's a style of outdoor cannabis ad that we will all get used to seeing which gets around the law. This style seems to include lots of text, extremely minimal brand mention, if at all, and a buried call to action.

A quick tour around my office in downtown Toronto on the 19th reveals a number of outdoor ads promoting cannabis. For example, the transit shelter advertises Emerald Health Networks Ltd., with no branding to be found, just cryptic copy. If you look closely in the bottom right corner, you'll see the URL which leads to a landing page about the endocannabinoid system. The ad contains no product information, with the only call to action being an age gated sign-up for email subscription.

This is an interesting strategy. Nothing in the ad or the landing page mentions cannabis or any kind of cannabis product. Out Of Home advertising is impossible to age gate, so is this creative approach which does not address cannabis in any way - yet has a call to action - a clever way to get around the promotion laws?

Here's (part of) the letter of the law:

The Cannabis Act [Subsection 17(2)] provides that, subject to the Regulations, a person that is authorized to produce, sell or distribute cannabis may promote cannabis by means of informational promotion or brand-preference promotion if the promotion is:

  • in a communication that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is identified by name

  • in a place where young persons are not permitted by law

  • communicated by means of a telecommunication, where the person responsible for the content of the promotion has taken reasonable steps to ensure that the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person

  • in a prescribed place

  • done in a prescribed manner.

I would be interested to understand what the ROI on this campaign is. How many over 18 email sign ups have they acquired for their spend? And, what will the follow-up email campaign look like? I'll update this as I discover. It remains to be seen whether or not Emerald Health Network will be able to keep this campaign running, very interested to see.

#cannabismarketing #outofhomeadvertising

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