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Spike Jonze and Jesse Williams made a totally normal weed ad for MedMen

CMO David Dancer talks about the brand’s new campaign, and the mainstreaming of marijuana marketing.

Spike Jonze and Jesse Williams made a totally normal weed ad for MedMen
[Photo: courtesy of MedMen]

In the new ad for marijuana retailer MedMen, we get taken through a museum exhibit depicting the history of marijuana in the United States–from George Washington growing hemp to Reefer Madness to the 1980s drug war to just regular suburban folks lighting up. Directed by Spike Jonze and narrated by Jesse Williams, The New Normal is an elaborate Mannequin Challenge, and essentially a two-minute defense of weed being no big deal.

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As cannabis legalization–and the growth of the cannabis industry overall–have become more established and less of a curiosity, so too has its advertising. The theme of normalization in the campaign is represented in how the new ad was even made in the first place, with a mainstream major agency like Mekanism and A-list talent like Spike Jonze and Jesse Williams. “A couple of years ago, agencies and talent like this probably wouldn’t have been interested in working in cannabis, so I think it’s a milestone moment,” says MedMen CMO David Dancer.

Early MedMen marketing revolved around common stereotypes of weed users. Its “Stoner” campaign featured portraits of grandmas, cops, and entrepreneurs as cannabis consumers. Dancer says that while normalizing cannabis is still very much the brand’s goal with its advertising, there’s also been a slight shift in how they do it. “One thing is moving into more benefit-driven messaging, to make sure those who are new to cannabis, or thinking about trying it, can start to understand some of the potential benefits of cannabis,” he says.

[Photo: courtesy of MedMen]
Another step in the normalization of cannabis is where MedMen ads will be appearing. The new spot will appear on the online streaming versions of Bravo, CBS Sports Network, Oxygen, MSNBC, Lifetime, and Food Network, and the campaign includes national print ads in GQ, Us Weekly, and Rolling Stone as well as audio versions on Howard Stern’s Sirius XM show and podcasts like The Adam Carolla Show. “We still have a way to go,” admits Dancer. “We still can’t work with Instagram, Facebook, and Google, but we continue to build those relationships, and over time I firmly believe they’ll open up as well.”

[Photo: courtesy of MedMen]
The last shot of the new ad, of course, is the ultimate goal. “It ends in suburban America,” says Dancer. “Grabbing the groceries [and] grabbing your MedMen at the same time. Something very normal and a part of everyday life.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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