If you are a bit older than a millennial but still under 40 (I think we’re called the shit-out-of-luckers) then you might remember the beer and alcohol ads from your childhood. Back in the early 1980’s Billy Dee Williams was smooth talking poor black folks into buying malt liquor that tasted like oil slicks, while poor white folks were promised poolside parties and buxom women who appeared like genies anytime someone cracked a beer open. That or commercials that proudly displayed pastoral scenes of rugged cowboys living together, hanging out late at night around the campfire and drinking beer, like real men. There were lots of commercials featuring rugged cowboys. Lots of hanging around campfires together. Lots of beer:
And lot’s of spitting game and getting your date drunk off cheap swill:
One might notice you don’t see beer or alcohol ads run with the same frequency as they did in the 1980’s.
Therefore I was a bit surprised to hear that Magnolia Wellness, a Medical Marijuana dispensary at 161 Adeline St. in West Oakland, has begun running ads on local public channels KRON and KOFY. If you forget marijuana is still illegal under federal law it’ okay, I forget sometimes too.
The ad features multiple patients who talk about the health benefits of cannabis but don’t include any images of the product itself. It’s more of a subliminal message, which gives you some sign of the fine line the dispensary is treading.
Although illegal under Federal law, The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates television broadcasts, hasn’t quite clarified the legality of advertising medical marijuana on television. Due to this corporate affiliates, including NBC, ABC and Fox have declined to advertise anything related to the medical marijuana industry.
However local public channels KRON and KOFY are more than open to the idea with a budget for the ads running in the tens of thousands of dollars a month.
This wouldn’t be the first time a medical marijuana ad has run on public televisionn here in the Bay area. In January, the Green Cross, a dispensary in San Francisco’s Excelsior district, ran a television ad on KOFY. That was the first time the industry was advertised on a public television station.
Although the idea of legalization is gaining traction in an increasing number of states, marijuana businesses face an array of obstacles when it comes to effectively promoting their products. According to the San Fancisco Business Times, Patten Wood, marketing manager for Harborside Health Center at 1840 Embarcadero in Oakland, reported losing its social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram and lost 45,000 combined followers and likes.
“We were never told why we lost our accounts, but we expect it’s because prices were listed, but we do not know for sure. We are in the process of rebuilding those accounts now,” said Wood. At the same time, “Facebook has been actively pursuing us to run ads on their site.”
Medical marijuana companies remain hopeful that the industry will present more varied options for advertising as, or rather if, society becomes more accepting of their product.
“The world of cannabis marketing is really opening up. We’ve worked with Clear Channel and are about to run another billboard with Outfront Media. As the general public warms to the idea of cannabis as a tool for wellness – not intoxication – the traditional marketing world will follow,” said Wood via the San Francisco Business Times.