Toxic Product of the Week
Dan Bilzerian's UK launch of his Ignite CBD vape has been a masterclass in reductive marketing based on dated male fantasises.
The internet has seen some douchebags in its time but Dan Bilzerian is right up there with the best of them. The trust-funded son of a convicted fraudster – Daddy is in exile on St Kitts, still owing millions to the state – became a high stakes (but not very good) poker player, and more obviously one of the leading stars of Instagram with pictures of his schoolboy fantasy lifestyle, involving assault rifles, Gulfstream jets, yachts and always a group of bikini clad babes tagging along as decoration. Girlfriends, or models on the payroll – you decide.
Anyway, Bilzerian was last noticed over here when he shared footage of himself on the scene on the Vegas shootings in 2017 in which he ridiculously and obstructively asking a police officer for a weapon, but now he’s back on our radar with the UK launch of his CBD vape, Ignite. Already established in the US and Canada, and valued at £90m, it’s arrival here this week has come with Bilzerian’s usual ‘values’ and…well, here’s a few observations about it:
1. The ads. In featuring buxom babes wearing troublesome shirts where the buttons never seem to work, the poster campaign resembles the old Lynx ads, only without any humour. Not sure what the messaging is here. Is the vape only for hot girls? Or will the vape allow you hang out with these hot girls? Or is it just brainless attempt to be associated with Things Men Instinctively Like, e.g. boobs? In which case, surely sausage rolls would have been cheaper. Anyway, it certainly maintains Bilzerian’s ‘world view’, where women are there to be ogled, and as such if they don’t possess Playboy bunny dimensions then they basically don’t exist. “Ugly women offend me,” he once put on a post, having scribbled out the face of a girl who didn’t pass muster. Nice.
One of the now many reasons why I have cancelled my speaking engagement @EuropeCBDExpo
Despite the fact that patients arrived to sniffer dogs this morning….
Life's better no where near Dan Bilzerian. pic.twitter.com/CWlMy0LOrD
— Carly Barton (@CarlyJBarton) July 12, 2019
2. The babe ‘ambassadors’. Remember when everything was sold on the back of semi-naked women? Yes it was the 70s. No wait, the 80’s too. And 90’s. Anyway, for a good few decades every launch party, single release, and post office opening, was accompanied by glamour models plastering on a smile and sticking out their chests for the local newspapers. In the 90s, it had an ironic tongue-in-cheek Loaded seaside postcard wink to it, allowing people to have their cake and eat it, but Ignite simply throws as many models into the frame as possible and hands them a vape with little joy seen anywhere. Again this is the use of women as decoration, and is so dated, so out of tune with current conversations, that it’s almost quaint. Almost, but not quite. Actually, it’s just depressing, and in that respect, the brand and its campaign entirely smacks of Blizerian’s beloved Las Vegas.
Have you ever been? It’s absolutely shit. And not in a Hunter S Thompson filthy/tacky way – it’s just lame. It’s an anti-life zoo where frat boys suck on beer bongs and grannies lose their life savings, and high stakes poker players spends their occasional winnings on three hookers who ‘like to party’/have crystal meth habits. Instead of going to Vegas, get the same experience by printing your credit card bill onto an old copy of Penthouse and read it on the floor of Bluewater shopping centre one Saturday afternoon.
3. The product. Lets just get one thing straight about CBD. It doesn’t get you high. It’s not like smoking cannabis.
CBD or cannabidiol has none of the effect actual cannabis does. Cannabidiol is made from hemp seeds and doesn’t contain THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis; hemp seeds are from a different strain. Using CBD and expecting a high is like trying to get a heroin hit by eating a poppy.
Cannabis, with THC, is illegal in the UK still, and the marketing of CBD is supposed to be controlled so it doesn’t promise medical benefits. However, the new CBD market – currently valued at £300m in the UK – which incorporates vapes, oils, balms, coffee, is largely unregulated, meaning a wide disparity of quality, as well as false promises and outright irresponsible marketing which play around with the idea that CBD will in some way deliver benefits associated with cannabis. Ignite’s messaging promises “pain relief”, as well as “calm” and feeling “lucid”.
Which isn’t to say there isn’t some kind of benefit in CBD. Nutritionist Ian Marber has said, “Hemp seeds have got a decent amount of fatty acids, omega 3, lots of protein, calcium, magnesium and iron..” However his main take is: “Hemp may be good for hormones and it’s anti-inflammatory too…but so is avocado. Only better.”
So there you go – CBD is less effective than avocado. Not so sexy now is it?
Basically it might be a nice tasting vape, but this edgy kind of marketing around CBD with its suggestions of the forbidden and Vegas decadence is pure horseshit. Actually horseshit may actually be a better bet, at least there’s a chance of some magic mushrooms growing on it.
4. Why would you? Why on earth should anyone put money into the pocket of Bilzerian? He doesn’t need more money for more guns. His product also doesn’t do much, other than discredit the meaningful attempts to have the cannabis legalised for medicinal use (Carly Barton, a medical cannabis campaigner told the BBC: “We’re just building up an industry which has barely begun….There is a responsibility to set some kind of moral standard. We can’t let people come in and think it’s okay to parade girls around with the products.”) And we as a society don’t need his reductive playboy idealising. Been there, done that mate, decades ago.
Dan, we’re not going to say “go back to your own country” as your beloved Trump did, but if you do come here, please restrict yourself to one of our prestige roadside ‘erotic stores’ on many of Britain’s wonderful ‘highways’. The vibe is very Vegas, you’ll find. Only with decent sausage rolls.
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