Cannabis retail chain zig-zags Canadian laws with “Next to Stok’d” campaign


Toronto, ON: Cannabis sales in Canada are legal. Cannabis advertising? Not so much. In fact, the entire industry is highly regulated. As a result, the government passed the “Canadian Cannabis Act” which strictly prohibits any advertising that shows products, people, paraphernalia, implies effects, or shows the inside of a store, among many other restrictions. Furthermore, social platforms (such as Meta and Google) and other media channels (OOH/radio) have extensive systems in place to screen out any advertising that promotes cannabis.

So how does a regional cannabis chain like Stok’d promote their stores?

Introducing “Next to Stok’d” – a legal-ish campaign that ‘zig-zags’ the laws and sophisticated media filters by cleverly partnering with neighboring businesses to dually promote their store AND covertly, Stok’d. 

“When we were presented with the idea from the Angry Butterfly team, we were both excited and nervous, but we loved the concept and the playful and entrepreneurial approach was a perfect brand fit for us,” says Lisa Bigioni, CEO and co-founder of Stok’d. “Once we learned more about how it would work, we realized it was an incredibly innovative way to promote our stores. Our neighbouring businesses loved the idea too. After all, more traffic to our stores is good for everyone.”

“While our goal was to promote Stok’d, it was also important to be authentic to the different businesses we were partnering with,” says Erin Kawalecki, Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Angry Butterfly. “Finding that common language that promoted both was key, and a lot of fun, too.”

“The trickiest part was while we thought this could work, we weren’t entirely sure until the ads went live and passed through all the different filters,” says Bernice Lo, VP, Executive Creative Director, Angry Butterfly, “We had plan B and C ready to go, just in case.”

The geo-targeted, 21+ campaign launched last month across multiple channels including paid/sponsored posts and prerolls, evening radio, and select TSAs, but the story was kept out of the ad industry press until the media finished its run to ensure the news didn’t reach the likes of Meta, Google, etc. so they wouldn’t buzzkill the campaign.

More about Angry Butterfly:
Angry Butterfly is a full-service, proudly independent, strategic and creative agency based in Toronto. Founded at a time of intense chaos in every part of the world, its goal is to create cultural shifts and a transformational advantage for client partners in their communications and business needs. The agency was born out of both dissatisfaction with the status quo and optimism for a new way of doing things with a distinctive approach of anthropology, artistry and agility. Angry Butterfly aims to create an environment that allows people to thrive and to do the best work of their careers.