High Country: Clio Cannabis unveils 2020 award winners
Here’s who got the nod for the industry’s best marketing and media campaigns of the year.
Editor’s Note: The photos that accompanied the print version of this article were incorrectly included from a previous column. The Aspen Times Weekly production department regrets the error.
When the venerable Clio Awards put cannabis on their short list of celebrated disciplines last year, it indicated a shift in the creative climate for the once-stigmatized industry. As the preeminent honors in the marketing world (the so-called “Oscars of advertising”), the official offshoot, Clio Cannabis, recently announced its second annual award winners.
Unveiled last month at a virtual ceremony as part of the Emerge Virtual Cannabis Conference, the live event was hosted by podcasters Weed & Grub and featured appearances by 2020 Clio Cannabis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Snoop Dogg with Steve DeAngelo, Evelyn LaChapelle and Jim Belushi on behalf of the Last Prisoner Project, this year’s Clio Cannabis Impact Award winner.
“At Clio, we have several programs that are custom built to salute the diverse and nuanced creative work of a specific industry, with competitions focused on music, entertainment, sports and health in addition to the original Clio Awards competition,” explained Clio Cannabis director Michael Kauffman. “With Clio Cannabis, our goal is to set the standard for creativity in cannabis marketing and spotlight the people whose pioneering work is essential in growing the marketplace so that the industry as a whole can better serve its audience.”
But even with the endorsement of a global authority like Clio, which was originally established in 1959 to celebrate creative excellence in advertising, cannabis continues to face challenges from what Adweek described as “byzantine rules” ranging from social media censorship to commercial rejection from national broadcasters. Adweek’s 2019 year-in-review recap also credited cannabis brands for still having to navigate non-traditional strategies and forcing them to “run a confusing regulatory gauntlet when it comes to advertising their wares” despite the progress of legalization across the country.
From Kauffman’s perspective and leadership, this past year proved more of a success for the industry itself.
“Cannabis has made huge strides in 2020, from being deemed an ‘essential service’ during the pandemic to prevailing in every single marijuana ballot measure of the 2020 election,” added Kauffman. “These battles were won in part because of the creativity, tenacity, and tireless work of countless cannabusiness leaders and we’re humbled to be able to honor cannabis creators in this way.”
The 2020 Clio Cannabis jury — comprised of 14 industry leaders curated by Kauffman — selected three entries to be elevated to Grand Clio Cannabis status, the competition’s highest achievement. Charlotte’s Web scored the top prize in Partnerships & Collaborations for its mesmerizing “Trust The Earth” farm art installation, a 76-acre rendering of a hand holding a hemp stalk mowed into farmland (an extension of its urban, Shepard Fairey-designed billboard campaign). Puffco, also a Grand winner, was recognized in Product & Service Innovation for the Peak Pro, a portable vaporizer with the largest ceramic chamber on the market. The final Grand Clio Cannabis Award went to Kiva Confections in Public Relations for the “It’s All Gravy” campaign for the company’s limited-edition, cannabis-infused turkey gravy.
The top overall 2020 Clio Cannabis winners include: Kiva Confections with six total awards; Charlotte’s Web and Puffco with four trophies; and Arnold, Artisans on Fire and Weedmaps all receiving three statues. Superette, a Canadian dispensary chain with five funky locations in Toronto and Ottawa, took Gold in Brand Design.
“This award encompasses all the energy our team has put into creating a thoughtful and fun experience. We built Superette on the foundation that people should enjoy buying cannabis as much as they love consuming it,” shared Superette CEO and co-founder Mimi Lam. “[We’re] always pushing the creative envelope on what’s possible, and constantly innovating. No idea is too out of the box for us, and we make decisions based on what feels right for our brand rather than follow the norms of ‘cannabis retail.’”
With social equity and inclusivity programs becoming (a long overdue) industry standard for cannabis companies to acknowledge and incorporate into business practices, Clio Cannabis has selected the Last Prisoner Project as its inaugural Impact Award honoree.
“We’re very cognizant of the inequities in people’s experiences with cannabis and we want use the Clio Cannabis platform to shine a light on cannabis advocacy and the groups that are working towards social justice in this space,” said Kauffman. “One of the most rewarding parts about my job is to amplify the incredible work LPP is doing.”
The decision stemmed from Kauffman’s year-round work with Muse by Clio, the organization’s own content platform. During each Higher Calling Q+A , featured guests are always asked to share a cannabis social justice organization that they support. Time and time again, the answer was LPP, the nonprofit working to free every last prisoner unjustly effected by the war on drugs — to the tune of 40,000 currently incarcerated people for cannabis offenses, which are now legal in most states.
“It is an incredible honor to be chosen for the Impact Award, especially in our first full year of operations,” said LPP executive director and general counsel Sarah Gersten. “The fact that the Clio Awards, spanning outside of [our] industry, has chosen to embrace cannabis sends a signal that cannabis is losing its long-held stigma and becoming broadly accepted, and even championed, by our society. It is also meaningful that LPP is a part of their honors. It shows a recognition of the critical work nonprofits are doing to create campaigns that inspire lasting reform.”
To learn more about the Clio Cannabis Awards and the full list of 2020 jurors and winners, visit cliocannabisawards.com.
Katie Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.
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