Canada's New 'Don't Drive Stoned' Ads Might Give You the Giggles

McCann and the Perlorians try a humorous approach

In Canada, where recreational cannabis has been legal for a year, most folks presumably know to avoid driving if they're out-of-their-heads, can't-stop-laughing, pot-smoke-pouring-from-every-pore stoned.

But they may wonder: Is it OK to get behind the wheel and peel out into traffic when they're just a wee tiny bit buzzed? As in, BARELY high?

The answer's pretty simple…


Now, such screaming might seem a tad melodramatic and judgmental. Indeed, histrionics can be all-too-easily ignored, and no one appreciates being hauled on the carpet for a lecture. 

Which is why McCann Worldgroup takes a humorous approach in a series of road-safety PSAs for the government of Ontario.

Directed by the Perlorian Brothers, the spots make their point without sermonizing or getting all bent out of shape. They compare folks' super-stoned behavior with how they act while "barely high," reminding viewers that any level of pot-fueled impairment makes driving a non-starter.

Yeah, toes are great, but they should never tap a gas pedal, even if you're just very lightly toasted. 

" 'Barely High' is about getting people to recognize their own behavior," McCann Toronto strategy chief Dustin Rideout tells Muse. "People are overconfident that they know when their high has worn off. But the reality is, you remain impaired long after that 'feeling' is gone." 

The work primarily targets young males, "who are more likely than other demos to get behind the wheel when high," Rideout says. "The approach of fear-mongering or finger-wagging is less affecting than meeting people in a place that's a little bit more relatable." (LG2 in Quebec City recently launched a more visceral take on the possible fate of Canadians who won't leave driving to someone who isn't stoned.)

McCann's :15s make their point through the type of accessibly absurdist humor the Perlorians—aka, Ian Letts and Michael Gelfand—have honed through the years. The team's greatest hits include Vim's "Prison Visitor" (battling shower mildew is like doing hard time); Emerald Nuts' 2007 Super Bowl spot with a naughty Robert Goulet; and hypnotically quirky ads for e-payment brand Klarna that featured a fish out of water who plays it smooooth. 

With weed legal up north, and consumption on the rise, more people need to realize they can't make a rational decision to drive while under the influence. Thus, the goal here was to embrace the ways casual users integrate pot into their lifestyles, while delivering a safety message viewers could readily absorb. 

"It was pretty funny shooting for the government, and hearing them ask if one of the actors could play it 'higher'," Rideout recalls.

Cue the giggles.


McCann WorldGroup Canada (Agency)
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

Soft Citizen (Production House)
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

Jigsaw Casting (Casting house)
Casting Director: Shasta Lutz

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

Alter Ego (Colour)
Colourist: Wade Odlum

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

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

Music –" LPGs over Hawaii" – by Solvent

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