Ep 318 – How To Advertise Your Cannabis Brand Legally

chad bronstein fyllo

Advertising cannabis is banned in most of the US, so how can a cannabis company get the word out? Here to help us find solutions to this problem is Chad Bronstein of Fyllo.

Learn more at https://hellofyllo.com 

Key Takeaways:

[00:56] An inside look at Fyllo, the world’s first single-solution regulatory technology for cannabis

[2:25] Chad’s background and how he came to start Fyllo

[3:53] How Fyllo’s data ecosystem helps cannabis companies streamline regulatory tasks and target customers legally

[9:51] What different cannabis companies can expect when using Fyllo

[13:07] Success stories Chad has seen so far and how clients are using Fyllo to advance their companies

[15:04] Chad’s advice on how to determine a good marketing budget for your brand

[16:34] How Fyllo provides direct access to cannabis audience data through the Lotame, the world’s largest marketplace for second- and third-party data

[19:35] Requirements companies must meet before working with Fyllo, including becoming CCPA compliant

[20:25] Chad’s tips on how to build a dynamite marketing team for up-and-coming cannabis brands

[23:55] Where Chad sees customer acquisition and brand awareness evolving in cannabis over the next 3-5 years

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

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Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at CannaInsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A Insider dot com. Now, here's your program.

Advertising your cannabis company is banned in most of the US, so how in the world does a cannabis company get the word out? Word-of-mouth is great but can be slow. Here to help us find solutions to problems like this is Chad Bronstein of Fyllo. Chad, welcome to CannaInsider.

Chad: Thank you, Matt, for having me. I'm really excited to be on CannaInsider with you.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Chad: Today, I'm out in Oak Brook, Illinois, where I reside, so my new home office.

Matthew: Cool.

Chad: Chicago. Yes.

Matthew: Cool. What is Fyllo besides a thin, Greek dough? Can you tell us what Fyllo is at a high level?

Chad: Yes, I'll tell you a backstory if you don't mind.

Matthew: Sure.

Chad: When I started this company, I brought together a lot of people that I wanted to start the company with and one of our co-founders, his name is Aristotle. He's a Greek guy, obviously, you can get by Aristotle, the name. We were at an off-site when we first started just thinking of names. Fyllo, people think of it as a dough but it actually means friend, family and has a core-root of leaf. We figured it, incorporated everything we want to be which is working with people that we really like to work with, as well as starting off from cannabis, so that's how Fyllo came about.

Matthew: Okay. What is it that Fyllo does? Can you just give us your quick elevator pitch? When you meet somebody, what do you tell them?

Chad: Yes, so Fyllo has a couple of different audiences but what I say is Fyllo, its core is around compliance that evolves into other areas which is advertising. We work with both brands, agencies. Then, on the other side, we work with law firms, as well as GCs and compliance departments, and companies that either use us for our understanding of hyper-regulatory law or if you're a brand, really putting together the right strategy. Like you said in the beginning, word-of-mouth is great but how do you put together a strategy that advertises to the masses and that's what Fyllo does.

Matthew: Yes, those are some sticky problems here and we'll get into more of what Fyllo does but give us a little sense of your background and journey, and how you came to start Fyllo with Aristotle.

Chad: Yes, I founded Fyllo a year and four months ago. Prior to that, I was the CRO of a company called Amobee which is in the marketing technology. I was there for about eight years, started from the ground up and we had a lot of fun, built it to a very sizeable company. I was just at a crossroads at the time as, "Do I want to go be an entrepreneur again or continue in the corporate environment?"

I saw cannabis being a huge opportunity so I started thinking of that idea probably in 2019 and around, call it January timeframe, and then started putting together the actual story and the vision, and went out to Aristotle, Erik Shani, and some other people and said, "Hey, I'm going to start this company and cannabis would love for you to be a part of it." They jumped on blindfolded and we went full-blow at it. Now, here we are at this point a year and a half later, we've got 75 employees and we have a technology, like I said, that encompasses a lot of things, but my backstory really is in brand and marketing before I jumped into this over the past 15 years.

Matthew: Let's get into a specific example here. Let's say I'm a cannabis retailer or a cannabis brand and as we were mentioning before, I wanted to get the word out, word-of-mouth is slow, I know I've got a great product. If you were sitting down with me, having a cup of coffee, say, "Okay, here's what you need to do. Here's how Fyllo can help."

Chad: Yes, but first, you really want to understand the cannabis retailer. Obviously, their footprint in terms of, if you have this 10-mile radius, but let's just say with multiple other stores in different states, just really understand the brand equity and like who knows about them and what the audience thinks of them, right? Then we would really go from there, our team would put together a strategy based off of their footprint and what footprint they're trying to accomplish in terms of scale and we build a very targeted strategy within that 10-mile radius of who their consumers are.

How do we reach those consumers? We can reach them not just in-- Back a year ago, billboards were the only way you can really reach a cannabis consumer. I think that's how most people use it. You go to California, you saw a billboard every two steps you walked. In this scenario, we're really putting together a hyper-targeted strategy to drive consumers into the store but using more of a digital side of it versus a billboard-approach that was cannabis a year ago. Does that make sense?

Matthew: Yes, it makes sense. What do the specifics look like, then? We have that 10-mile radius, it's more than billboards, it's digitals. What else is it like? How does it actually manifest?

Chad: Really, when you're a brand and you have an audience, and obviously, we know that your audience is 21 and up if it's a THC audience. Is it a [unintelligible [00:05:35] audience you're trying to target? Is it the medical audience? What we've done over the past year is, really, we've developed a data ecosystem and that's something you've probably seen lately that we're obviously pushing it quite a bit out nationally, but we've developed a data ecosystem. If you are called Aristotle, which you brought up earlier, you're an entrepreneur, you're doing all these things and you are in the same radius every day because of the Coronavirus.

Now, you're working from home, you're going to the local grassroots dispensary, but what's really important is we've created a data ecosystem that's not just targeting cannabis brands, but really focused on the mainstream brands as well, because if you're a mainstream brand, let's call it McDonald's, and you know that Aristotle smoked weed or bought weed at a local grassroots dispensary. If you dayparted Aristotle, there's a good shot that you could actually target Aristotle with what is in market for a Big Mac, let's call it.

There's a lot of different ways you can use different examples but we're really evolving an industry to target both correlated data from both cannabis and mainstream. Does that make sense?

Matthew: Yes.

Chad: What I'm getting at is if you are a dispensary and you have a target list of customers, we can actually use our data as well to generate new customers into your dispensaries and, like I said before, that's using foot traffic studies, data, and inventory, proper advertising inventory sources, which we all have quite a bit of background in, to really bring that whole marketing plan together to drive that return on ad spend that they're looking for which is sales.

Matthew: How do you measure that sale? Is there a conversion marker of some kind? How does that work?

Chad: There's plenty of different methods. It just depends on what system the dispenser is using to actually track it. The good news is it's even easier to track in this day and age because most people go online now and do pre-orders before they actually go to the store, right? For us, it's very easy to track and I think, before Coronavirus happened, everyone was obviously trying to understand how would it impact cannabis but we are fortunate in a sense that it has impacted cannabis across the board in a positive way, which is obviously not for a lot of other vertical [unintelligible [00:08:09] extremely upsetting. From the cannabis perspective, it has helped the vertical across the board.

Matthew: Gosh, this is crazy. You can't really advertise on Facebook, I don't think, or YouTube, but there are third-party sites. Let's say you go to some website to learn about a strain or something like that, and the next thing you know, you see an ad for a local dispensary that just happens to be a couple of miles away from you. That's allowable, right? That's not forbidden [unintelligible [00:08:42].

Chad: Right. Actually, not to name names because, obviously, people get upset but in the sense of publishers, all of your mainstream publishers are getting more. Part of what we set out to do, if you look at my team, I brought on Nicole Cosby who was the head of Publicis for Precision which was working with all Fortune 100 brands on establishing partnerships and standards for billions of dollars worth of advertising.

Then, Jessica Kerwin is on her team, ran the publisher business at Publicis as well, and what we wanted to do when we set off to do this, which is really important from our backstory, was to really go and create more credibility and make it more mainstream and get people to understand the value of a cannabis consumer, and I think we've done that very successfully. We've gotten a lot of mainstream publications to actually accept THC, as well as CBD advertising prior the year, your typical places would be where you would guess which is cannabis inventory, so like a site that's focused on cannabis only and hasn't have any mainstream population. Does that make sense?

Matthew: Yes, yes. Now, what if I'm listening right now and I'm a dabbing brand and I want to get the word out about my brand of oils or shatter wax, whatever it might be, and how would I do that? How can I create an audience that's just of dabbers of let's say 25 to 35-year-old males, is there a way to do that?

Chad: There is a way to do that. It's a great question. Back to what I was referring to earlier, is we developed the data ecosystem, partnering with a lot of the POS e-com retail loyalty providers, where we actually have data, whether you're a dabber, edible, flower, Sativa, Indica, we have a lot of different segmentations that we can build.

What we would do is we'd start building an audience based off of what we think, what our audience, what our data's telling us what dabbers do as well as how do we accentuate that model look like audiences that are also dabbers. We build a whole segmentation around the dabbing audience to target dabbers. Does that make sense? You have a lot of data from that standpoint, so you start off with infused segment around dabbing and then you accentuate it with more scale and infuse it and enrich it so you have a much larger dabbing audience.

Matthew: That makes sense. I would think then when prohibition ends nationally, there'll be a ton of expanded opportunities and probably room for national brands more. We have brands that go state by state and license their name and so forth, but do you see that as really when you can use advertising to create kind of like a Coca Cola of a cannabis brand? Is that kind of the ignition for takeoff then?

Chad: I think it depends, like from the data perspective, we think we have initiative to take off because brands can advertise targeting cannabis consumers. They do not have to raise their hand and say, hey, I'm going to run a creative campaign with a person smoking a blunt on a piece of creative. They can run a campaign for a mainstream brand, knowing that-- I think what Fyllo has set out to do is really to make sure that people understand cannabis audiences are also your normal audience of your consumers.

What we're showing is different behaviors that you may not be thinking about and abilities to target a consumer based off of some of the data that we have around a cannabis consumer. Like I said, if I go to the local dispensary, Chad Bronstein and I have a lot of different data that would say I'm maybe not a smoker, there's just a new data set that you learned about me that you didn't know before.

Our core focus is to reach a consumer in a different mindset than you used to reaching them and procreating scale for not just cannabis brands, but for mainstream brands because of the value of these consumers today, and that there's this so much reach for a brand to target in the cannabis space because technically 98.6% of the US has the ability to buy some sort of cannabis, whether it's CBD or THC.

Matthew: You're looking at a lot of data, you're working with a lot of customers. Is there an example without naming names of one that really gets it, that is getting good results that you could talk about?

Chad: I can't name names, but we work with quite a bit of them in the space, both from cannabis and now having brands actually testing the data, but I, unfortunately, can't name names.

Matthew: Can you tell us anything without naming names about how they're [inaudible [00:13:36]?

Chad: Of course, it's all different use cases. If you're a law firm, you'll be using our platform right now to understand licensing, taxation, zoning, et cetera and you'd be using the platform specifically for that perspective and when we launched our raise there were law firms that publicly gave us permission to use them like a Shepherd Mullins or DLA Piper, which use our platform currently. From the other standpoint, if you are a brand, call it a cannabis company, there's a couple of different aspects you can use this from.

If you're a CBD brand, you'd want to be, we've had a lot of success with the brand that we have driven a ton of DTC sales for. Their core focus is driving sales online. They use us to obviously find the proper inventory matched with the proper data, which is in our ecosystem. We've had a successful relationship with this brand for seven months and have been able to drive them incremental growth month over month.

Then we have your dispensaries that are in Michigan or Ohio or Illinois, California, that their core purpose and goal is to drive more sales and incremental sales month over month and like we talked about earlier in this podcast is really focused on that hyper-local strategy and finding the right consumer that's going to purchase, and so driving them down the funnel and driving incremental sales lifts. Suspensory is our core focus for those brands.

Matthew: A lot of brands and retailers, they raise money to start their business and when they're breaking down their budgets, they have a marketing budget. How much should a dispensary or a brand allocate for this type of thing, if that's reasonable? I think a lot of, to say individual cannabis retailers spend, let's say between three and seven K a month on just Leafly alone, to get foot traffic in the door, what should they be allocating for something about like working with Fyllo, just so they can get an idea.

Chad: It's a sliding scale and it depends on the size of the brand. If you look at [unintelligible [00:15:49] and where they're headed to the size of them, they need to be looking at it more like you mentioned earlier is like what it like MillerCoors or a Anheuser Busch spend at full scale of building their sizable brands that they've built. They should be more looking at the future for that for them, but for a local dispensary, it's a sliding scale.

It depends on the size and the sales before I'd give them a recommendation because we've learned very quickly in this space that each group is an anomaly and they have their own different strategies. It'd be hard for me to give an exact amount just because we've learned so quickly that everyone's so much so different in this space compared to my old background.

Matthew: Talk a little bit about Lotame solutions, and is that what you were talking about before with the direct to consumer CBD brands?

Chad: Yes, we announced a partnership with both Lotame and IOTA, where we syndicated a lot of our audiences to multiple different platforms. What that means for us now is that if you're a major demand DSP, we call it, which I come from an MOB and you want to go buy a CBD segment or a THC segment from Fyllo, you can plug into quite a bit of the multitude of different platforms and you would see Fyllo's data available, and then you can purchase that data in real-time.

I want to target Matt, obviously PI limitation is scrubbed with partnerships, so call it one, two, three, because I know he's a consumer of this brand and also he would be a consumer of call it a QSR brand. They would buy that data in their platform and target that data within their advertising campaigns. Does that make sense? Lotame and IOTA allow us to do that.

Matthew: That makes sense. It sounds like extending an existing profile for a prospect to a larger geography or something, a larger digital geography perhaps, is that right?

Chad: It's basically extending it to everybody in the mainstream landscape that buys data on behalf of brands, Fyllo has now made their data accessible to the mainstream marketplace at scale.

Matthew: This is really kind of opaque for people outside of this industry to understand all that's going on. There's all these invisible marketing efforts going on and math and conversions and databases and it makes sense once you have someone explain it to you but it doesn't necessarily make sense before that. It's interesting to hear how this invisible world kind of works and what can be done and how it's measured and so forth.

Chad: I'd say for us, we brought in the right people for the past year and a half and you can imagine we've had quite a bit of challenges but we've executed, I think, seamlessly in this specific area because we knew what we were walking into and like you said, it takes a lot of coming from our backgrounds to really understand how to set this kind of business up, and also educate the marketplace both from the cannabis perspective and the mainstream.

You're educating two different people, you're educating like we said, the cannabis vertical, but also the mainstream vertical on this data and it takes a lot of work. I would agree it's, once you walk through it, it's pretty easy to understand, but at first, you may not understand all the behind the scenes work that we've been doing over the past year and a half.

Matthew: Are there any cannabis companies that you won't work with or any ads that aren't allowed at all?

Chad: Everyone that we work with has to be CCPA compliant, meaning they have to define there's specific privacy policies that you have to work with. If they follow those guidelines, then we'll work with them from a data perspective. From a brand perspective, we work with all brands that want to market, but we have to make sure that if we take on an opportunity that we know we can succeed on it and just managing those brands expectations, because a lot of times we're educating people on something totally new. We want to make sure that we are properly setting them up for success. If we don't feel like we can do that, then obviously we'd walk away from that opportunity.

Matthew: I think there's a lot of people that have been successful in other business domains that come into cannabis, they raise capital, they get licenses, and so forth, but they may not have the skill set of a marketing team that's as deep as what you're talking about. If you and I were just sitting over coffee and I'm starting a brand or a dispensary, and you were just telling me like, "Look, man, this is who you need on your marketing team." Someone with this kind of skill set that can use tools like Fyllo and understands this and this, what would you tell me, who do I need on my team?

Chad: It's a broad, there's a lot of people you need on your team to build it a full marketing approach, but use us as an example. You have our chief commercial officer, Jeff Ragovin, who comes from a long pedigree of successful marketing businesses. He had an exit with this co-funding Buddy Media and he's very great at commercial strategy and leading revenue operations. He's great from building the team from a sales perspective to market properly.

Then, Nicole Cosby, she's very focused on legal and partnerships and standing up the data business for us and just making sure we're properly, if you're a cannabis company with data, you'll need a legal component to it to make sure you're following all the rules and guidelines. Then you need brand marketers if you're building a marketing team. People that understand how to market brands and get it out there. The brand marketers working with then the next step is people that execute from the plan to the execution. Working with the proper technologies to actually execute your brand strategy.

Depending on the size of the brand, you need a decently sized team, but it just depends, it's give or take who we're talking to in the audience.

Matthew: Okay. What questions do you feel like people have the most for you when you're talking with new prospects, either cannabis brands or retailers, and they're like, "Hey, this sounds like an interesting business, Chad how do I get started? How does this help? How can you help me?" What do they ask you?

Chad: I think a lot of people just, when they first hear about us, they just want to understand, like you asked in the earlier part of this podcast was what can you do for me? What does Fyllo do that's going to really help me get to the next level. We hear that a lot. If you're not dealing with the marketer and you're dealing with call it like a real estate background or a banking background, you have to educate them from one on one to how we can actually build this process for them and alk them through how we do that.

The biggest thing we've seen is a lot of brands aren't set up for what we do, so we have to get them set up for it so then they can start building the process and implementation to do what Fyllo technology does.

A lot of the questions we get is like what inventory do you guys have? Where does your data come from? How do you actually drive sales for me? Like you asked earlier, how do we track it from a compliance perspective? Do you have scale in a specific Michigan area or can you track all applications? There's a lot of questions you get because we're a three-prong technology that does three different things. Your audience skews different, but you get quite a bit of questions for each part of it.

Matthew: Okay. How do you think this is all evolving? The customer acquisition, brand awareness, where do you see it going in the next three to five years? How's it going to evolve and change?

Chad: I think that as the market continues to evolve and more people come into play, there's going to be a lot of consolidation and there's going to be players that really understand how to help these brands scale. I think for Fyllo, what's really important is we don't just look at it from a cannabis perspective, we are really heavily focused on bringing mainstream brands into targeting cannabis audiences.

I just think that evolution is going to be fun to watch over the next three to five years, but there's going to be a lot of opportunity to scale with you're going to see a lot of bigger brands continue to grow and the vertical as it gets, like you said, call it federally legalize more so and becoming more open to cannabis as a vertical holistically. I think it's just going to scale tenfold. I think there's a lot of opportunity over the next three to five years and we're seeing the market kind of show that with the recent upticks for the cannabis stock market.

Matthew: Okay. Now we've really focused mostly on advertising, but in marketing, can you just talk a little bit more about the regulatory side of things too for listeners that are interested in that?

Chad: Yes. We purchased a company called Canada Rags about six months ago. We actually recently just built out the version two of the technology. From a regulatory standpoint, I would say that call it 90% of the space uses our platform. It's used mostly from legal and from compliance teams, GCs and law firms, like I mentioned earlier, and each one has a different use case.

If you're an SSO, which we call a single state operator and you really want to understand each local municipality, you'll use our platform to really understand when the meetings are happening, if you should attend that meeting, after the meetings happened, what actually was talked about the meeting, applications that were submitted. You really can understand if you can submit an application or when applications are going to be available to submit for those, taxation.

If you're trying to get a piece of real estate, understanding zoning and regulatory regulations around the real estate. If you're running packaging and labeling, and want to understand the regulatory guidelines on packaging labeling, you would use our platform. Same with advertising limitations that as well as digital creative, you would want to use our platform to make sure you're compliant specifically by that hyper, with that local government.

Most of our regulatory software is used by legal and it's been what we do is we've been able to help a lot of the MSOs and law firms save quite a bit of time with having this aggregated database and our technology that allows them to automate a lot of the work that's being done manually for them within their internal organizations. Does that make sense?

Matthew: Yes, that's the kind of real nitty-gritty stuff that's not sexy, but is super important you know, just foundationally important to get that. You provide that in a kind of easy to digest way that's super valuable.

Chad: Yes. It's been pretty, we've had, we're excited about the new launch of it and it's in October we're launching, so we've built technology on top of that technology, which automates, like I said, packaging labeling. You can upload your packaging and labeling and not your actual digital asset or creative asset. The system will audit it within a second and tell you if it's compliant or not and why it's not compliant. It's doing that both for digital as well as packaging labeling, which we're really excited about and something that as our vision grew as we evolved the technology. Something that you'll see coming soon.

Matthew: Now, you recently finished a big capital raising round. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Chad: Yes. We were lucky enough to close around with some of our current investors, as well as some new investors, but Jason Wilde has been an unbelievable investor for us, let our first round and let our second round with also having other investors like K2, Arcadian, Salvio, Panther, Fido, Fountain, and other funds join us throughout this process.

It was definitely before, we started raising capital right before Coronavirus, literally right before and then Coronavirus hit and definitely stalled out the process because people are just seeing where the market's going ahead and we were lucky enough to great supporters and people that are close to the state close to our business to know the opportunity. They came in for this round. We were able to raise a significant round that's going to help us continue our hyper-growth.

Matthew: Okay, great. How big was that around? That's public, right?

Chad: Yes, it was 10 million.

Matthew: 10 million, great. Okay. Chad, I like to ask some personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, is there a book that's been particularly meaningful for you in your life that you'd like to share?

Chad: Yes, that's a tough question actually because I've read a lot of books that have been not meaningful to me. I just say really for me, I like to read books that people, even just like Shoe Dog, which is Nike's story. Just really seeing people go through adversity. I like to read a lot of books that more so show me other entrepreneurs and how they became successful and really hearing their true nitty-gritty story. That stuff really gets me excited and teaches me something because I'm learning through trial and error and reading other people's trial and error. I'm a true entrepreneur, that stuff really excites me.

Matthew: Okay. VC, Peter Teal has a famous question, he asks entrepreneurs. It is what do you know to be true that very few people agree with you on?

Chad: What do I know that to be true that very few people agree with me on? You're asking me some tough questions. I don't even know how to answer that one. That's a tough one. Like give me an example.

Matthew: What would you be scared to bring up at a dinner table with people that have diverse backgrounds and different ideas of the way the world works? You say, if I bring this up, this is going to be controversial, but I know that.

Chad: Politics. Easy one, don't bring up politics.

Matthew: You know it's true. Not to bring up politics, but that's not very controversial.

Chad: Yes, that's true. I don't know. It's a tough question. I don't know how to, I really don't. Can you ask me a different one?

Matthew: Well, I'll tell you, I do have a different question for you. Here we go. It's a Chicago question. Which Chicago restaurant are you missing the most since so many restaurants have closed because of COVID-19?

Chad: Another good question. I would say probably because our offices in the West loop and it's going to be a people, foodies, like probably you're going to be like what? Because we go to the same, we go to the same spots over and over again, because it's right by our office but Bavette's.

Matthew: Okay. What kind of food is that? I haven't been there?

Chad: It's all it's like steaks and burgers and stuff like that.

Matthew: Yes. I'm really familiar with the West Loop and not one of my favorite place is actually, favorite coffee shop ever is Sawada Coffee in Green Street.

Chad: Oh wait, ask me a question again because I forgot about Sawada. Sawada is literally lived and breathed Sawada. We went to Sawada every single day. Now that you brought that up, that's been the worst thing for us that shut down.

Matthew: Yes. The military lattes are so good, which is like a latte with matcha powder in them. They're so good. That place is awesome. I'm like I'm bummed. Once a week, I check out on Google maps if they're still closed because I'm just so bummed about it.

Chad: That's hilarious you brought that up. Yes. Sawada that's our favorite spot. Like we literally are friends with the staff and we went every single day, twice a day. That's honestly, that's been the saddest thing for us out of everything. We go to Beatrix now but Sawada was our spot.

Matthew: Yes. I really hope they come back. We'll end there, but Chad, for listeners that want to get ahold of Fyllo and see how they can work together, they're in the cannabis space and they want to know more. How can they reach out and connect with you or with Fyllo at large?

Chad: Yes. They can always go to our site and fill out a specific form for what they need or they can just reach out to me directly at Chad@hellofyllo.com and I would send them down the right path.

Matthew: Great. Well Chad, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. Good luck with everything you have going on. Great timing with that capital raise. That's very fortuitous for you. We'll be watching and hopefully, come back on in a little bit and tell us how things are progressing.

Chad: Yes, man, this has been great. I really appreciate you having us on and look forward to doing it again with you.

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