Pot photographers will walk a fine line
B.C. looking for marketing materials that don’t glamorize cannabis or appeal to young people
Wanted: photographers to take pictures of cannabis products and accessories for marketing materials related to government run B.C. Cannabis Store retail sales.
Images must be able to navigate a fine line between being attractive, but not be seen to glamorize the product or promote its use.
That is the gist of a business opportunity that the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch put out to the public recently by way of a request for proposals on the province’s B.C. Bid website seeking photography contractors.
“As a branch of the provincial government, all opportunities to provide goods and services to (the BCLDB) that support the wholesale distribution and retail sale of liquor and cannabis are advertised on B.C. Bid,” said spokeswoman Viviana Zanocco.
Photography is a new addition to the list of expertise, along with product knowledge and retail experience, that the branch is looking to develop for the newly legalized industry.
In the RFP document, the branch states that its marketing department wants to “make extensive use of original photography” for use online, inside physical stores including in signage and brochures, for social media and other “marketing collateral.”
However, imagery must also be “produced in accordance with applicable law,” with respect to federal restrictions on specifically promoting cannabis, particularly when it comes to youth.
Zanocco, in an emailed statement, said the branch expects all of its vendors and suppliers to comply with laws related to its business and “(the) addition of non-medical cannabis as a line of business has not posed any challenges for the LDB.”
That doesn’t mean a photographer won’t have challenges, said Jo Vos, managing director of the cannabis information portal Leafly Canada, because there is no template for how to meet Health Canada’s restrictions on marketing cannabis.
“There are no clear rules,” said Vos. “There is not a case study that clearly lays out what you can and cannot do.”
Generally, there are three things images and marketing have to avoid, Vos said.
“You may not be seen to be glamorizing cannabis or promoting cannabis to youth,” Vos said. “The second would be not promoting consumption, or if you are producing images, be cognizant that (you are) encouraging people to consume responsibly.”
The third thing to watch out for, Vos said, is making sure that images don’t promote specific effects from using cannabis.
That said, Vos believes the industry opens up a lot of new business opportunities related to anything that goes into the consumer experience for buying cannabis.
“Consumers want to shop for cannabis like they would any other material good,” Vos said, like they would pick out fresh produce or flowers.
Photographers interested in responding to the Liquor Distribution Branch’s bid have until Dec. 7 to submit proposals, with a question-and-answer process in between now and then, with final selections to be made by Dec. 19.
There is not a case study that clearly lays out what you can and cannot do.”