Cannabis Programmatic Advertising: Focusing on What Matters

Cannabis ad showing on phone

For U.S. cannabis brands, there are many restrictions on how and where a brand can advertise.  Because of these restrictions, cannabis brands lack options, and programmatic advertising can seem like a blessing.

If you’re just getting started in the business and are wondering, “How do cannabis brands advertise?” this is one of the answers.

Programmatic advertising involves using automated software to buy media space for placing your digital ads on websites, streaming services, and anywhere else digital ads are shown.

Using programmatic advertising, your cannabis brand purchases digital ad space on the platforms and publishers that matter to you and gets your company in front of the right eyes.

Because of its flexibility, and the simple fact that the channel is open to cannabis brands, there are plenty of ways that programmatic ads can fit into your marketing plan.

However, it’s worth zooming out.  There is nuance to how programmatic can and should be leveraged by cannabis brands, especially brands that are particular about Return on Ad Spend (RoAS).

Let’s take a closer look at programmatic advertising on its own and then discuss how cannabis companies can start putting this digital marketing practice to work for them.

A cannabis ad showing on a MacBook

What Is Programmatic Advertising?

First of all, if there’s anyone reading this who’s completely new to the cannabis industry, you may have an important question before we really start.

Can cannabis companies advertise online?

Cannabis companies can indeed advertise themselves online!  However, there are rules and regulations to follow when it comes to advertising on Google and Facebook (a bit more on that later).  Those rules don’t mean you shouldn’t advertise, and workarounds exist even for platforms that are considered unfriendly to cannabis, including Google and Facebook. 

And at Heady, we’re big believers that brands should not pay for eyeballs all the time.  Having organic growth strategies (social, email, content marketing) to supplement paid ads is always a good idea.

But to get into programmatic advertising:

Here’s an impressive figure for you: programmatic advertising spending is projected to hit $493 billion worldwide by the end of 2022.  Digital marketers are clearly seeing the benefits of programmatic as opposed to direct-sales digital advertising.

Programmatic advertising is an automated system of buying (and selling, if you’re a publisher) ad space.  It takes place in real time, so spaces reserved for ads on, say, a web page can be populated with an ad for a brand that just purchased the space moments earlier.

But don’t worry: you don’t have to sit around making these decisions in split seconds, because programmatic advertising occurs on software that uses algorithms to buy the ad space.

What are those algorithms based on?

They’re based on the exact targeting that we would input for your campaign on your behalf.

Unless your products are all hemp based, you know you can’t advertise nationwide, so we target our ideal audience.  Maybe that’s athletic men and women between the ages of 18 and 40 who live in Massachusetts.  Maybe it’s gamers in California.

The digital publishers hosting the ad space will be known to the platforms that run programmatic advertising so the program “knows” how and where to target your ads.

But after that, the process proceeds basically on autopilot.

As programmatic advertising continues to expand and become more efficient and available around the world, smaller brands–such as many cannabis companies out there–are going to see more marketing opportunities open up to them.

How Can Cannabis Companies Leverage Programmatic Digital Advertising?

Let’s dig into the meat of this post now.

Where does programmatic advertising stand in relation to cannabis companies?

We’re going on record to say that, when done right, it can be one of the biggest boons to a cannabis company’s paid media efforts.

That’s for two reasons that we’ll get into now.

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Cannabis Programmatic Advertising Can Be a Bargain if Used Correctly

Because programmatic advertising media buys are generally procured by marketing agencies , cannabis companies don’t need a large staff to maintain the whole process themself.

You determine your budget, targeting, goals and audience, and your marketing agency does the rest. That way, your ads fall right into the available spaces in front of the right audiences, with no further effort needed from you.

Cannabis companies that want to get into paid media benefit hugely from this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a well-established enterprise or a smaller startup, programmatic digital advertising can be a great, cost effective, top-funnel traffic source that requires little effort from your business to pull off correctly. 

Programmatic ads are also becoming one of the effective ways for partners on either side of the shelf to work together:

  • Brands are launching programmatic campaigns focused on co-marketing retail partners, helping them to strengthen relationships with existing retail partners as well as opening new doors.
  • On the other side, retailers are launching programs for brands to contribute co-marketing budget to similar campaigns, when their brand partners want to improve sell-through or support a launch.

Cannabis Programmatic Advertising Helps Cannabis Companies Avoid Ad Restrictions

The other major benefit of cannabis companies doing programmatic advertising is that this process allows you to skirt around the rigid restrictions on advertising cannabis or hemp products on Google, Facebook, and Instagram.

Now, in fact, there are ways to advertise marijuana and hemp products on Google and Facebook, which is a subject for another post.

But if you want to serve ads for your business directly to consumers, programmatic advertising allows you to do that.

You can’t get any words related to “hemp” or “cannabis” past Google or Facebook (again, there are still ways to advertise on those platforms), but if you want to cut the nonsense and advertise directly to your ideal customers, programmatic advertising lets you.

The process allows you to show your ads to Colorado users on this or that website. It lets you show ads on out-of-home digital signage in Michigan, or streamers in New Jersey.

In the best sense of the phrase, programmatic advertising for cannabis brands is a golden opportunity.

Get Started with Your Cannabis Programmatic Advertising

Even with the explanation provided here, you will likely have a lot of questions about how programmatic advertising for cannabis companies works.

We make use of this kind of paid media advertising as part of our services, so hit up Heady to find out more about it.

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