The legalization of cannabis is sweeping North America; in some places, access to various marijuana products has become common. Yet the notion of a Super Bowl ad devoted to cannabis still raises eyebrows. When the agency KCSA Strategic Communications, on behalf of Acreage Holdings, pitched the idea, they made sure it wasn’t just a “go buy weed” commercial, but rather one that would educate consumers, regulators and legislators about plant’s the medical benefits.
They knew, however, that the odds were against the Super Bowl accepting its first-ever marijuana-focused commercial. The team was ready for that. Those preparations and the resulting campaign have earned first place in the “Viral Campaign” category of the PR Daily Awards.
The campaign’s goals included positioning Acreage as an industry leader committed to education, and taking advantage of the controversy around the rejection of the commercial to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the NFL and national broadcasters around the airing of cannabis-related commercials.
The 30-second spot developed by the team demonstrates the life-changing medicinal benefits cannabis had on a child with epilepsy; a 60-second commercial told the same story in a longer manner, along with the stories of two other patients who have benefited from treatment with cannabis.
Scenarios were developed for PR resulting from both acceptance and rejection of the ads, with the rejection campaign focused on “the commercial the NFL doesn’t want you to see.” USA Today broke the story, with coverage spreading to the likes of CNBC, The Daily Show, TMZ, Bloomberg, CNN Business, Esquire and Rolling Stone, reaching 2.4 billion people.
Congratulations to Lewis Goldberg and Howard Schacter.