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McDonald’s Disagrees With Visionary Franchisee on 420 Burrito Billboard

McDonald's Billboard
Photo Steve Baker

Culture

McDonald’s Disagrees With Visionary Franchisee on 420 Burrito Billboard

McDonald’s billboard referencing cannabis causes a stir with corporate.

Despite McDonald’s corporate office’s opinion, great pot puns are here to stay in mainstream advertising and the continued destigmatization of marketing to cannabis consumers is a no-brainer, but how did we get here?

This week’s case starts with Lee Phelan. The Raton, New Mexico McDonald’s franchise owner just dropped $3 million to upgrade his facility and he had a bright idea. Phelan’s location is the first and last Mcdonald’s anyone crossing the New Mexico/Colorado border will see and you know who drives across that border? People who enjoy going somewhere they won’t be arrested for using marijuana responsibly.

Phelan wanted to hit this market hard, so he commissioned the team at Lamar New Mexico-El Paso, an advertising firm, to bring his vision to light. What the Lamar team conceived at Phelan’s request will surely go down in the annals of great breakfast burrito ads.

“Usually, when you roll something this good, it’s illegal,” the billboard read while also noting that potential customers could bring buses full of high people to enjoy these fully legal and regulated breakfast burritos and free wifi.

Unfortunately McDonald’s corporate didn’t feel Lee’s idea met their standards, we at Cannabis Now, however, applaud you. Phelan is a trendsetter. Most of the billboards we’ve seen in the cannabis industry world have been little more than PR stunts or a mechanism to force your name into a conversation dominated by embedded brands.

Michael Mons, general manager the Lamar regional office where Phelan commissioned the billboard, told Cannabis Now how it all went down.

“The franchisee came up with the idea,” said Mons with a friendly emphasis. “We designed it for him, put it up, and threw it up on our Facebook page here in New Mexico.”

Mons said Phelan called him the Monday morning after this signs first weekend up to inform him of the corporate pushback. Not long after the Lamar corporate team reached out.

“They’re very strict on their creative to have the same message across the country,” Mons said.

While the sign had proven successful by any standard, from burritos sold to being a viral marketing hit, Mons and Phelan had to concede.

“Long Story short, it just got so, on both our ends,” Mons said as he paused to collect his thoughts continuing with a laugh saying, “it was just best to take it down.”

The mainstream American marketing machine is now ready for their peace of the pie. Basically, every aspect of the advertising world has been rehashed more times than Spiderman. With cannabis entering a respectable part of the American psyche in general, one has to expect advertisers to adapt to this new reality.

If the recent 420 pun-offs of the last couple years have told us anything, they’re more than ready to make the jump.

We asked the experts on the continuing rise of corporate cannabis marketing. Dr. Amanda Reiman, who led the Drug Policy Alliance effort on Proposition 64 in California thinks these marketing companies should expect savvy cannabis users to fall over, hook line and sinker.

“Advertising to gain market share is a major part of capitalism,” Reiman said. “However, it remains to be seen whether cannabis consumers can be swayed in the same way as McDonald’s consumers. Even though previous stereotypes framed cannabis consumers as junk food eating, couch surfing losers, reality shows us that they are health conscious and environmentally conscious.”

Reiman also noted a lot of responsible cannabis consumers were into anti-consumerism.

“The same tricks that have worked in the past might need to be amended for this crowd,” she said.

Marijuana Policy Project Director of Communications Mason Tvert told Cannabis Now advertisers had to capitalize on this wave even in these still-early days of this becoming acceptable.

“Marijuana is a popular subject right now, both culturally and politically and advertisers want to grab people’s attention,” Tvert said. “They also want consumers’ to relate to them or their products, and a steadily growing majority of the U.S. population thinks marijuana should be legal. While it is still a somewhat edgy subject for some, it’s becoming more mainstream, and companies are becoming more comfortable with using it to make their ads stand out. Some might even be shooting for headlines.”

TELL US, are you seeing more advertising catering to cannabis smokers?

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