Directed by Spike Jonze, the film chronicles the complicated history of cannabis in America, from George Washington’s hemp-growing days to present. Beyond being a beautifully shot story with a powerful message, the film is also a huge marketing achievement for the Los Angeles-based cannabis retailer, MedMen.
In honor of 4/20, we reached out to MedMen’s CMO, David Dancer, to learn more about this shining example of branded content — and to see how his team is measuring success.
How did the idea to make a short film come about?
We wanted to create a short film that had the ability to educate consumers on America’s complicated history with cannabis. We viewed it as a rallying cry for cannabis consumers. The finished commercial by Academy-award winning storyteller Spike Jonze and acclaimed actor/activist Jesse Williams is a milestone moment for our industry and consumers alike.
You describe “The New Normal” as “a journey through America’s complex history with cannabis.” Why was this a story you wanted to tell?
A lot of the work we do is focused around education. There is so much misinformation about cannabis; in addition to informing consumers about the benefits, as one of the leaders in this emerging industry, we feel it is also our responsibility to highlight the complicated and confusing story around this plant in our country. We want to help expose the truth and move the story forward. We believe a world where cannabis is legal and regulated makes society a safer, healthier, and happier place.
How is MedMen helping to address some of the issues in the film, for example, the decriminalization of marginalized communities?
As one of the largest cannabis operators in the country, MedMen seeks to leverage the scale and scope of our operations to mainstream cannabis such that it can no longer be utilized as a mechanism for criminalization. MedMen is committed to addressing the impacts of the “War on Drugs” and benefiting those harmed by cannabis criminalization.
A critical component of providing career opportunities for those who have been imprisoned for cannabis-related offenses is record expungement. In 2018, MedMen sponsored one of the largest record expungement clinics in Los Angeles County, which resulted in more than 830 records reclassifications or expungements, as well as wraparound services for families. Later that year, we partnered with Greater Boston Legal Services and 25 statewide, regional, and local organizations and employers to provide a free criminal offender record information sealing clinic and a cannabis industry job fair that was attended by more than 500 people.
We are currently in the midst of finalizing our corporate social responsibility program, which will also be focused on expungements.
Tell us about the process for creating the film.
It was truly a collaborative process between Spike Jonze, Jesse Williams, and Mekanism, the creative agency we engaged for this campaign. Spike is a true auteur and brings his unique vision to any project he is involved with; he also brings his team of creative partners who are second to none. They include production designer James Chinlund (“Requiem for a Dream,” “The Avengers,” and the upcoming “Lion King” reboot) and Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young.
In terms of casting, everyone felt it was important to tell an authentic story, so many of the people in front of and behind the camera have a personal connection to cannabis. Some of the stories include a veteran who uses cannabis to treat his PTSD; a former NFL player who swapped opioids for cannabis; a victim of racial profiling, and some individuals who work in the cannabis industry, to name a few.
What were your marketing goals for “The New Normal,” and how are you measuring success?
We wanted as many different people as possible to see the film. Being able to air it on TV channels like Bravo, MSNBC, and CBS Sports — and in movie theaters around the country — has been a game-changer. So far, we’ve had 1 billion media impressions on the campaign. We’re also measuring success through an ongoing brand survey, which tracks aided and unaided awareness, foot traffic, and of course, video views.
What does MedMen’s recent Staff Pick mean to you?
It’s an honor to be recognized by Vimeo’s Curation team as one of their favorites of the week. We put a lot of hard work into the creation of “The New Normal,” and being a Staff Pick helps us spread the message far and wide.
What’s next in this campaign? More branded videos?
We will be releasing a behind-the-scenes documentary also directed by Spike Jonze, which, among other things, tells the real-life stories of the cast members who have had life-changing connections with cannabis.