Canada’s Charming PSAs About Getting ‘Barely High’ Won’t Judge You. Just Don’t Drive

McCann and the Perlorian Brothers skip the lecture and remind you to enjoy that light buzz at home

Being 'barely high' is great for appreciating a rug, but not for driving.
McCann Worldgroup Canada

There’s a big difference in how it feels to be stoned out of your mind versus just “barely high,” but a new PSA campaign out of Ontario wants to remind cannabis fans that any level of buzz is enough to make you an unsafe driver.

Created by McCann Worldgroup Canada for the government of Ontario, the “Barely High Is Still Too High to Drive” campaign features brief, surprisingly charming vignettes about everyday people getting just a bit high. Through voice-overs, they describe the differences between how they act when fully lit compared to when they’re “barely high.”

While the ads don’t judge people for their half-baked peculiarities, they do make it clear that any of these scenarios would be signs that you’re too high to drive. The agency based the campaign on Ontario government research into perceptions of cannabis use, and then McCann supplemented the data with its own field research and focus groups featuring a key demographic: Canadian millennials.

“The idea that being a little stoned and getting behind the wheel is OK is both pervasive and untrue,” says Josh Stein, executive creative director at McCann Toronto. “The data and face-to-face interviews showed that Canadian citizens simply do not understand how high they are or how long their high lasts.”

Canada legalized recreational marijuana use in 2018, making cannabis a more mainstream pastime. So the PSA campaign isn’t a “just say no,” but rather a “just don’t drive.”

“We need to communicate the idea that we understand pot is legal, that you are going to smoke pot and get high, that this is all normal,” Stein says. “It’s OK to get high—but not to drive.”

The spots are directed by The Perlorian Brothers, one of advertising’s most creative and mind-bending duos. Honored in Adweek’s Creative 100 in 2015, they crafted some of the most enjoyably surreal spots ever for epayment service Klarna in 2016. More recently, in a campaign that similarly highlighted people’s quirks in a non-judgmental way, they showed some of the odd amenities house hunters look for their dream homes.

Rather than recruiting talent with a stereotypical “stoner” look, casting for the spots focused on finding actors who seemed more like people you’d meet just about anywhere in day-to-day life. It’s a subtle way of acknowledging that cannabis is now a normal activity in Canada, but one that requires some extra thought in terms of auto safety.

“We could have easily shown why smoking and driving is a bad idea,” Stein says. “Instead, we focused on what the real problem was—kids just don’t appreciate the fact they don’t know when they are too high to drive.”

CREDITS:

Agency: McCann WorldGroup Canada
Executive Creative Director : Josh Stein
Creative Director/Copywriter: Chris Duffett
Creative Director/Art Director: Rob Trickey
Executive Producer: Jacqueline Bellmore
Account Team: Tracy Curtis/Michelle Li
Strategy Team: Dustin Rideout and Anna Jean Lloyd

Production: Soft Citizen
Director: The Perlorian Brothers
Executive Producer: Eva Preger, Link York, Rob Burns
Line Producer: Merrie Wasson
Director of Photography: Mikhail Petrenko
Production Designer: Alexis DeBad

Casting: Jigsaw Casting
Casting Director: Shasta Lutz

Saints Editorial (Editorial)
Editor: Griff Henderson
Assistant Editor: Kerstin Juby
Executive Producer: Tory Osler

Color: Alter Ego
Colorist: Wade Odlum

CRAFT Toronto (Online Facility)
Online/VFX Artist: Ben Spergel
Executive Producer: Grant Pye

Audio: Pirate Toronto
Audio Director/Producer: Tom Eymundson
Engineer: Kyle Anderson
Producer: Maggie Blouin-Pearl

Music – “LPGs over Hawaii” – by Solvent