You have a brilliant cannabis business idea. You’ve come up with a product or service that can help a bunch of people and potentially make you a lot of money. The logical next step in your marketing strategy should be to promote this product, right? And how hard can that be?
Based on our experience, this can be pretty difficult. One of the toughest parts of owning a cannabis-based business is jumping through legal hoops while trying to promote your product or service. With varying local, state, and national laws, advertising for marijuana products can be almost impossible to navigate. Laws often conflict with each other, change rapidly, and can be difficult to understand. On top of that, you have to play by each advertisers’ rule set, which tends to side with the national laws.
Despite all of these restrictions, we’ve found a few ways to get campaigns running for our marijuana clients while still playing by the rules. Since we get a number of questions about advertising from our prospective cannabis clients, we decided to share some of our tips and tricks to running digital advertising campaigns for marijuana.
Advertising Online For Cannabis: FAQ’s
Which Platforms Allow Cannabis Ads?
If we’re looking at advertising policies, the answer is no one. Google, Facebook, and most other large advertising platforms align with federal law, which states that cannabis is illegal and cannot be advertised for. Because of this, the main strategy we employ is, “How can we stretch these policies to our advantage?” If you’re trying to sell flower, concentrates, edibles, etc. online, you’re likely not going to find any wiggle room in these policies. However, if you sell accounting services, growing supplements, extraction equipment, for example, there’s some opportunity for us.
For our clients that sell ancillary services and products for cannabis, we’ve found some interesting opportunities. Because these products are not illegal according to federal law, they are often able to run ads on the platform. A best practice is to avoid outwardly using “cannabis” or “marijuana” in your ad copy or landing page, but policies are loosening every day. Part of running a successful cannabis advertising campaign is testing the limits and seeing what you can get away with.
Can My Cannabis Business Advertise?
The short answer is, maybe. When a potential client comes to us asking about advertising, we ask four questions that usually tell us what’s a possibility for them.
- What is your product?
- What is your brand name?
- What is your URL?
- What is your budget?
We ask these questions for a number of reasons. Mostly, we know which clients have successfully gotten past advertising policies and which have not, so we can use those experiences to tell you if your business might be able to run.
Your product and brand name can make a big difference when it comes to your eligibility. For example, if you are a cannabis consultant, you might be able to run on Google or Facebook without issue. However, if your name is “Cannabis Consultant,” you’ve suddenly restricted your options simply because your name would get flagged. Similarly, if you sell THC hand cream, you wouldn’t normally be able to advertise. However, if your name is something generic like “Holistic Solutions,” you might be able to slip past most of the automated systems that would flag your product normally.
Your URL also helps your eligibility. More often than not, a digital ad that you’re running will direct to your website. Automated systems for Google, Facebook, and more will look at both your ad copy and your landing pages. If your landing page is cannabisdoctor.com for example, you’ll likely get flagged by those systems. Having a generic URL like naturalpainrelief.com can help get past those systems.
Our last question about budget mostly tells us what other options are available to you. MMG leverages partners for some of our clients that allow cannabis ads to run on cannabis-friendly networks. While these networks provide a great alternative for our clients, they do not come cheap. Most partners require at least a $2500 monthly ad spend before you can run, which makes it not the right channel for everyone.
How Does CBD and the Farm Bill Play Into This?
To be honest, we don’t know how the passing of the Farm Bill will fully affect our clients’ ability to run online advertising. While the bill was passed officially in December and made CBD federally legal, advertisers rarely update their policies quick enough for us to have an official answer. As of posting, Facebook and Google have not updated their policies to allow the advertising of CBD specifically on their platforms.
Does this mean they would reject ads for CBD on their sites? Unfortunately, you don’t know until you try. Sometimes CBD ads are able to run without issues. Sometimes ads are caught immediately. Most of the time, campaigns end up somewhere in the middle, facing some issues but able to run for a period of time.
My Cannabis Ads Got Shut Down. Now What?
Well, that all depends on where you had issue. Google, Facebook, and other platforms have varying levels of shutting down that they employ. Google will often flag ads before shutting down an account, giving you the opportunity to change your messaging and try again. Facebook, on the other hand, may shut down your account without warning, meaning you do not have the opportunity to try different things on the platform. The worst-case scenario for Facebook is that they shut down your Facebook or Instagram page, so you have to rebuild your following from scratch. When debating whether to try advertising your cannabis product, the risks need to be weighed. There will almost always be risks in trying this channel for promotion.
Advertising for cannabis still falls in a gray area. Google, Facebook, and other advertising platforms do not allow the advertising of the cannabis plant, but some leeway has been found for advertising ancillary products. In our experience, most clients need to try multiple channels to know where they are able to run and see success. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for cannabis clients.
Still feeling overwhelmed about what to do? Schedule a complimentary audit with one of our Analysts and see what Marijuana Marketing Gurus can do for your business.