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First TV Commercial for Legal Marijuana (Almost) Hits the Airwaves

Advertising potentially harmful substances like alcohol and nicotine is a marketing tactic that certainly creates controversy. While nicotine cigarette ads are largely non-existent these days, commercials and print campaigns for e-cigarettes have sprouted up in recent years. And while alcohol ads aren’t shown on daytime TV anymore, kids can still easily access these marketing campaigns online.

With the legalization of marijuana gaining traction, companies selling pot are now launching their own marketing plans. One of those plans included a commercial that was set to air on television.

The Marketing Plan for Pot

Denver-based ABC affiliate KMGH announced that they would be the first in the country to run an ad for legal marijuana.

Neos, a cannabis extract company that makes “vape pens” infused with cannabis oil, is behind the controversial commercial. It was expected to air during late-night hours, just before Jimmy Kimmel Live hit the air.

Marketing agency Cannabrand claims the 15-second spot plugged Neos in name only and had no images or specific references to pot.

Despite that careful planning, Cannabrand’s Neos ad went up in smoke – it was yanked by Scripps (KMGH’s parent company) shortly before airing.

Navigating the Marijuana Market

Cannabrand said in a statement that the ad would be put on hold “indefinitely” while Scripps “investigates the legality of airing a ‘federally illegal’ substance on federal airwaves. We’re interested to see how this unfolds as this is uncharted territory for the industry.”

The marketing agency will also work with the Marijuana Enforcement Division of Colorado to “try to find a way where we can get more distinct guidelines about what kind of television advertising we can and cannot do.”

Colorado has implemented strict marijuana advertising regulations, some of which include the banning of images and targeted marketing aimed at minors. Marijuana ads are also banned during programs with an audience that attracts at least 30 percent of those under the age of 21, similar to the self-imposed guidelines that alcohol companies observe.

Coincidentally, about 97 percent of the viewership for Jimmy Kimmel Live is over the age of 21.

Advertising Addictive Substances

projectknow-shutter264911474-offering-drugsIt’s hard to remember that cigarette commercials were commonplace at one point in history. That all changed when President Richard Nixon signed legislation in April 1970 that banned cigarette ads on TV and radio.

The bold move was largely made so that children weren’t exposed to these commercials. Just one year earlier, tobacco companies were the largest product advertisers on TV. The final cigarette ad on TV ran on the Johnny Carson Show on Jan. 1, 1971.

Extensive research has been done more recently on the relationship between alcohol ads and underage drinking, but the results of these findings are mixed. Nonprofit research organization RAND reported found a positive correlation between ad exposure from late night programming and underage drinking among 7th to 9th graders, but a separate study by professors at the University of Texas said booze consumption has remained consistent despite alcohol advertising increasing by 400 percent over the last 40 years.

Learn more about marijuana addiction and treatment options.