U.S.: NORML Trying To Win Super Bowl Ad For Marijuana Spot

IntuitSmallBusinessBigGame

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is trying, through social media, to win online voting for a contest that will award a Super Bowl ad to a small business. But the odds are long for the cannabis advocacy group, according to some observers.

"[A]nyone who thinks a marijuana advocacy ad will run during the game on Fox this February may be smoking something already," wrote Jack Neff of Ad Age. "That doesn't mean the parties involved mind the publicity being stirred up."

Intuit is holding the contest; the company said in July that it would give one small business a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. But when NORML entered the contest, it set off a burst of media attention and raised questions about what, exactly, is a "small business."

Uniliver's vice president of media for the Americas, Rob Master, tweeted to former Intuit Quickbooks marketing executive Seth Greenberg, who launched the contest, that it is "creating tons of buzz around potential marijuana ad winner -- definition of earned media."

Greenberg, who left Intuit in July to become chief marketing officer of Lifelock, replied: "That's one type of 'buzz' we didn't expect."

Interestingly, Intuit has in the past reportedly closed accounts with legal medical marijuana dispensaries because doing commerce with them goes against Chase Bank's anti-"drug-related" business rule, according to Salem News publisher Bonnie King in Salem, Oregon.

The next round of the Super Bowl ad contest, which begins September 25, will ask entrants to complete unspecified "activities," after which a panel of judges will pick 20 finalists based on "how passionate, authentic, entertaining and appropriate to the brand the business is."

Both popular votes and "proof of financial stability" will also be factored in, according to an Intuit spokeswoman.

The Top 20 finalists will be required to meet certain requirements, she said, "which include being an active, lawful small business with fewer than 50 full-time employees." All potential ads must also meet broadcast acceptability standards, she added.

"We've been using Intuit spreadsheets for years, and we sure feel like a small business," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML.

St. Pierre added that the groups revenues are under $1 million. He said he wasn't aware of any contest rules specifying that the small business be a for-profit concern, pointing out that one-fourth of the U.S. economy is made up of nonprofit enterprises.

However, the ad could still be rejected by "broadcast standards," even if it wins the contest, St. Pierre acknowledged.

"Any advertising submitted to Foix is subject to broadcast standards review before it can be aired," a Fox spokesman stiffly stated in an email. A person familiar with the situation said Fox doesn't accept "advocacy ads on controversial issues," but if Fox really didn't do "controversial advocacy," of course, that would nix about 95 percent of the editorializing which masquerades as "news" programming on Fox every day.

"We would not be surprised at all" to be denied by the network, St. Pierre said, but added that either way, the group welcomes the media attention.