Legal Sea Foods Embraces Cannabis Culture With Trippy TV Ads Airing at 4:20

DeVito/Verdi fishes for giggles

The tide's getting awfully high and seaweedy at Legal Sea Foods these days.

Stoner humor abounds in DeVito/Verdi's latest work for the Boston-based restaurant chain, which rides the wave of cannabis chic with commercials and print ads awash in weedy wordplay. 

New TV spots feature psychedelic visuals and trippy tunes, along with lines like "Our fish are getting freshly baked" and "We're packing bowls … with clam chowder." 

Talk about Phish food. 

You'll note that some of the spots reference 4:20 p.m., that extra special time for getting nicely toasted. The ads will air on TV exclusively at 4:20 p.m., naturally. Legal also plans to give folks the chance to win bowls of chowder when they text the restaurant at … wait for it … 4:20 in the afternoon. 

Pot-themed dishes (with herbs, presumably, but not herb) are coming soon, along with "Toke-Out Menus" and free chowder from vans parked outside Boston marijuana dispensaries. 

"Marijuana [becoming] legal is a cultural phenomenon in and of itself and not tied to politics or the movement's struggle," says agency president Ellis Verdi. "Like all cultural phenomena, it's fair game for advertising, especially if the name of your restaurant is Legal." 

Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana use in 2016, and OK'ed retail sales through licensed dealers last year. So, the eatery seems a tad late casting this particular line. And beyond the "Legal" name, the cannabis tie-in feels, dare we say it, a little half-baked?

"The use of marijuana extends from baby boomers, many of whom are excited that it's finally legal, to younger people who are making it a part of their lifestyle in varying degrees," Verdi says. "When I look at the long lines at dispensaries, I see all ages, genders and myriad nationalities. It's a beautiful moment that so many can partake in their own way. I think the humor will appeal and resonate with this broad audience." 

See some more :30s here:

The brand has become known for its goofy, attention-grabbing comedy, and this work charts a similar course. In past efforts, Legal likened Hillary Clinton to a cold fish, mocked animal-welfare PSAs, and said Boston trolley conductors resembled halibut (baiting the hook for a fight and reeling in media coverage). 

What's more, the new campaign will target folks who are predisposed to marijuana. "So, 'Bob' walks into a dispensary and our location-data technology picks up his mobile device ID," explains Verdi. "Later on, Bob enjoys the cannabis product he purchased earlier. Shortly after, we are able to display our creative to Bob on his phone. Then, as the munchies kick in, we are letting him know via our message that Legal Sea Foods welcomes him and we are right around the corner!" 

So, it's not the weed making you paranoid. It's the ad campaign!

And if you do happen to light up and then head to Legal, remember: Even barely high is too high to drive! Take public transportation (that's just the conductor, not a giant halibut), and groove on these transit cards done in the style of Woodstock-era concert posters:

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.