In an office overlooking the beach of Santa Monica, California, ten experts in the cannabis and marketing sectors gathered for the final judging session of the inaugural Clio Cannabis Awards.
Established in 1959, the Clio Awards is an international competition that celebrates creativity, excellence, and innovation in the advertising and marketing space. It’s essentially the Academy Awards for ads; there was even a Mad Men episode about it. Now in its 60th year, the Clio Awards is still going strong, with a mission to “celebrate bold work that propels the advertising industry forward, inspire a competitive marketplace of ideas, and foster meaningful connections within the creative community.”
In the spirit of propelling the advertising industry forward, the Clio Awards has teamed up with High Times for a new, collaborative venture: the Clio Cannabis Awards. After all, with legalization comes new businesses, and with an influx of new businesses comes competition, especially in the areas of marketing and advertising. We’re living in an exciting era.
Inside the Clio Cannabis Judging Room
After two rounds of voting online for the many ad campaigns that were submitted for consideration, the jurors met onsite yesterday for a final vote. The panel consisted of Rebecca Brown (Founder & CEO of Crowns Agency), Lisa Buffo (Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association), Anne-Marie Dacyshyn (Chief Marketing Officer of GSW Creative Corp.), Greg Dacyshyn (Co-Founder of Camp High), Jason DeLand (Founding Partner of Dosist/ Anomaly), Evan Goldberg (Co-Founder of Houseplant), Elizabeth Hogan (Vice President of Brands of GCH Inc.), Tommy Means (Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Mekanism), Darren Romanelli (Founder of StreetVirus), and Jason White (Chief Marketing Officer of Cura Partners).
Also in attendance were Nicole Purcell (President of Clio), Carly Angeloni (Associate Director of Events), Janie Sircey (Associate Director of Social Media), Rachel Kruge (Senior Coordinator of Clio Music & Clio Cannabis), and Alexa Martinelli (Client Relations Manager).
Moderating the judging session was Michael Kauffman, Director of Clio Music & Clio Cannabis. He started the session by reviewing the process for judging the 47 entries that made it to this final round. Each entry would be presented and the judges would cast their votes on whether the entry should receive a gold, silver, or bronze statue, an honorable mention, or be voted out. The “ballots” were to be cast on iPads that were handed out at the start of the session.
After that round of voting, the judges would then do a final vote to determine the winners. The entries were broken down into separate categories, including advocacy, brand design, digital/mobile, and film/ video.
Kauffman read aloud a list of questions to be considered during the Clio Cannabis judging process:
- Is this work creative? Original? Inspiring?
- Is this work brave? Bold? Innovative?
- Am I jealous of this work? Do I wish I had done it?
- What does it say about our industry? What message does it send?
In an industry as exciting and relatively new as the cannabis industry, one would think that advertising would be a breeze. But as it turns out, effective advertising and marketing is a challenge for everyone, across all industries. It’s not enough to have an amazing product; you have to convince everyone that your product is superior. The Clio Cannabis judging session wasn’t just about products and companies, though. The jurors were also evaluating campaigns advocating for education, access, and acceptance—all things that most other industries take for granted.
That’s what makes the Clio Cannabis Awards unique. At the end of the day, cannabis companies aren’t just competing against each other for a prize; they’re competing to support each other. Competition pushes people to strive for excellence. When everyone works hard, the industry gets stronger, proving that it’s viable—and worth legalizing on a federal level.
The issue of prohibition hangs heavily in every cannabis-centric event and conversation. It certainly was not absent here. I asked Kauffman if moderating the Clio Cannabis judging session was any different than moderating sessions in other sectors.
“Since laws and regulations make it so that many types of traditional advertising are not currently available for cannabis companies in most places, the conversation in the Clio Cannabis judging session definitely takes into account restrictions and processes that other programs don’t,” Kauffman explained. “That’s why we have the different programs. Creativity can take on many forms, depending on the industry.”
The Clio Cannabis judging session was so interesting to observe because of the emphasis on not only the ad campaign itself, but on the message it promoted (or didn’t promote) about the cannabis space and the people who work and live in it. Spirited debates and discussions were had. Questions about placing certain ads on the shortlist for the purpose of encouraging others were asked. Issues of separating an ad from the company that created it were brought forth.
It’s worth noting that these questions are unique to Clio Cannabis. During the judging processes for other Clio Awards, the conversation is solely centered on the work that is presented. But because the legal cannabis industry is still in its infant state, because the industry still carries a stigma, and because the people who consume cannabis are often still misunderstood, certain considerations had to be made.
Everyone in the room had an opinion on every issue, and at times the conversation seemed almost combative. But it was because everyone in the room cared about the future of the industry and the precedents they were setting. When cannabis becomes federally legalized and more widely accepted, the Clio Cannabis judges will have the luxury of judging the entries solely on creative and artistic merit.
“As legalization and regulations evolve, there will be a huge need to attract new talent and provide marketing and advertising pros with a broader palette of channels to share their messages for hope, health, and consumption,” Kauffman said.
“Based on the high levels of creativity and innovation in the work submitted this year, and on the level of inspiring conversation by our jurors this year, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll continue to see an explosion of award-winning advertising that will impact our culture for years to come. There’s very exciting creativity that we’re proud to celebrate.”
The Clio Cannabis Awards will be presented Wednesday, November 20th. Check back in with us the next morning for a complete list of the winners.