A Heads-Up For The Holiday -- Or, How We'll Avoid The Apocalypse

Superstorm Sandy. The fiscal cliff. Twinkiecide. Talk about sounding the alarm. Lately, events have been so ominous that a person could be persuaded that the Mayans were on to something, apocalypse-wise.

Still, during this Thanksgiving week, we do have something new to be thankful for -- massively thankful, in fact. Particularly apt for the sweet-potato-based holiday, this gift comes to us via the earth: it’s an agricultural miracle! Not only will it be a windfall for our economy, moving us off that cliff through new tax revenues that could go to hospitals and schools, it will also take the strain off our prison and judicial systems, improve the general health of the populace, lower the number of drunk drivers on the road, and end gang violence from Mexican drug cartels. Incidentally, it might save the the advertising business.

Packaging, design, marketing, publishing -- the sky’s the limit. (At the very least, think of all those fans and lights to be sold!)

It starts with C and has a B and stands for cool. Yup, it’s cannabis, man -- aka, the marijuana stimulus package, coming soon to a state near you.

Sadly, since Nov. 6, we’ve been so collectively obsessed with the wayward babes of the Petrashian scandals or photoshopping tiny coffins for the Twinkie (and it looks like curtains, at this stage) that aside from a few giggly, embarrassed newscasters dancing around announcing the news, we haven’t taken time to think about the economic aftermath of bold ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington that legalized the recreational use of marijuana. And it’s not just for Democrats: in the mile-high state, more people voted for marijuana legalization than for Obama’s reelection. In addition, Massachusetts approved the use of medical marijuana, joining the wave of 17 other states.

Obviously, it’s not your pothead father’s ganja anymore. We’re not talking Amsterdam, or old-fashioned head shops, bongs, or Cheech-and-Chong-style low-tech stoners. Rather, the future belongs to Ganjapreneurs who are getting into sophisticated gourmet items, like marijuana-laced candy, olive oil, ice creams, and chocolate truffles. (It’s the thing itself and the munchy -- in one! And these are much more expensive goodies than Twinkies!)

There are also marijuana-medicated beverages and capsules in various strains that could be marketed like the range of ales that microbrewers sell. In all, more than 25,000 different products can be made from the crop, not to mention all the hemp-related fodder that could reinvigorate the automotive and stand-up comedy industries.

The big unknown, still, is how quickly the federal government will allow a regulated marijuana market to take shape. At this point, however, it’s inevitable -- and then banks will free up money to make loans and the biz will grow exponentially. One study predicted that the roughly $2 billion medical marijuana industry could reach $9 billion by 2016. Think of the opportunity that pot in all its legal permutations could present for Big Tobacco, for instance.

Ironically, given a little pot production, companies that in this country are now uniformly despised as merchants of death could rehabilitate their images. They’re already set up for manufacturing, distribution, packaging, and marketing. That would also mean massive infusions of advertising money into the media, (and perhaps huge print initiatives could make magazine publishing viable again.) If the advertising is regulated differently, these new pot products might even allow the tobacco companies to get their names back on TV.

Which reminds me of a certain scene in the pilot episode of “Mad Men” involving a fictional Lee Garner Jr. and the actual cigarette brand, Lucky Strikes. After the Surgeon General’s rumblings on the danger of tobacco, the companies were no longer allowed to make health claims in their ads. This resulted in a very tense, smoke filled conference room scene between Don Draper and the Sterling Cooper crew and Garner and his father.

After a few false starts, our starched and Brylcreemed hero saved the day by coming up with the phrase “It’s toasted.” (Which the brand had actually used in 1911.) Garner Sr. pointed out that every cigarette brand was toasted. Don responded that that was beside the point. Working his patented magic on the room, he then explained the meaning of advertising: “Advertising is based on one thing,” he said. “Happiness. The smell of a new car, the freedom from fear, that massive billboard on the side of the road that screams that whatever you’re doing, it’s okay,” he said. “You are okay.”

And now, in the midst of all of this apocalypse, we need to hear “You are okay” more than ever. We’re not toast.  Rather, we’re toasted.

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6 comments about "A Heads-Up For The Holiday -- Or, How We'll Avoid The Apocalypse".
  1. Meagan Phillips from Goodby Silverstein & Partners , November 22, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
    I would *love* to do an advertising campaign to "legalize it." To Don Draper's point, it makes a lot of people happy. It is curious why most media outlets have shied away from really diving into this topic. The sin tax alone could solve some issues.
  2. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER , November 22, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.
    THE LIBERTARIAN POINT OF VIEW: legalize pot, but don't go crazy regulating and creating new pain in the ass public service union members. Further legalize all other drugs. Just execute on the spot anyone who sells it to minors. Minors defined as under 18. Also watch out for the pol who fears that the local pot dealer will be put out of business by Walmart selling pot at a discount. "Lucky Strike means fine tobacco!" LSMFT, of course. Now as for Lucky Strike, did it mean a bowling score, a gold mine find, a fortunate happenstance led by Mike Quill or John L. Lewis or David Dubinsky? Or perhaps a strike of a match? Sarah Palin, you might like to know, talked about legalized pot in Alaska. It was legal to use in your home until 2000 when the busybodies took over. Palin said she smoked it then and didn't much like it. Better commentary than Clinton who didn't inhale or Buckley who smoked it outside the 12-mile limit (no inquiry about how it was acquired). I am reading Dawn to Decadence, the story of last 500 years written by the great Jacques Barzun. If you want to know how little you know and what the sweep of a great man's mind is, read this book. He just passed a short while ago at 104 or 105. A life truly well spent, even if this european emigre spent his last years in Austin Texas observing the creeping decadence coming in on second hand smoke.
  3. Michael Porte from The Field (social), WheresSpot , November 24, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
    I can see it now! The "Hilltop" version of the classic Coke spot (irony intended) - but this time for pot! Set in the Northern California redwoods, in a foggy haze of ...is that really fog or the sweet smell of .. Oh Yea. I want to be on that shoot. Actually, i want to write the spot. Cheech and Chong watch out... No longer is pot going to provide the laugh track, it may be, as Barbara points out, a whole new marketing opportunity! Bless those that keep thinking up new markets, for us marketers to exploit!
  4. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , November 24, 2012 at 8:06 p.m.
    Hilltop, filled with the actual local budtenders and gangapreneurs, all earnestly singing that they'd like to teach the world to invest in a buttoned-up business plan. Pot-- it's the new "plastics!"
  5. Marian Berelowitz from freelance , November 24, 2012 at 8:56 p.m.
    Who would have imagined 10 years ago that pot might be a more viable business than sugary sodas?!
  6. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , November 27, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.
    That's right, Marian! Further proof that his is an idea that's totable? the far more clever headline for a story about the push to legalize medical marijuana in yesterday's New York Daily News was "Pot of Gold": High Revenue Rx for state's many woes:pols.