It has been deemed the “Cannabis Revolution”. Not quite a year old, it quickly ripened into big business with brands and advertisers alike seizing a piece of this very significant market opportunity. Despite this market attracting savvy business leaders, the landscape is uncertain and most are still trying to figure out how to navigate it.
First, the cannabis industry is not only highly-regulated but regulations in North America differ between states and amongst provinces. This is not unlike what agencies have traditionally faced with alcohol, tobacco and gambling clients. The onus is on agencies to know the limitations, while successfully marketing cannabis with ingenious creative and channel strategies to build credibility in the space.
Second, customers don’t know where to start. The cannabis revolution offers new hope for many medical problems as a substitute for alcohol and tobacco. These promises bring a different kind of consumer and consumer demand. What kind of products would consumers be interested in? How and where do they prefer to purchase? What is the amount of education required to help them navigate this same landscape but for health claims and strains?
What are the keys to success behind the first movers in this industry?
Regardless of how fast everyone wants to grasp this opportunity and run with it, it still warrants caution. Advertising cannot be successful if the ads don’t run live. So agencies need to get creative within the rules. When Abacus set up shop, their focus was on social advertising. On day three they had attracted the interest of Tokyo Smoke. This springboarded them into the cannabis market. Over the last two years, they have been working with a number of major Licensed Producers (LPs) and global cannabis companies.
Abacus’ success lies in a mix of great content, a tech stack and data.
Abacus found a unique and creative way to work the landscape. By creating a lot of good quality content to tell stories and educate the consumer, they then explored various distribution channels to amplify that content. They’ve built up a tech stack to allocate spend in a compliant way – both digitally and Out of Home (OOH). Part of that tech stack includes StackAdapt to meet the programmatic digital advertising requirements for their clients. Amongst the numerous vertical brand campaigns executed in StackAdapt, cannabis has been notable. In just a year, StackAdapt has been trusted by 43 LPs, cannabis stocks and brands, seeing 6.1x year over year growth in media spend.
“Cannabis campaigns perform very well on our platform, because cannabis advertising is driven primarily through content which is a natural fit with native advertising,” says Vitaly Pecherskiy, co-founder and COO at StackAdapt. “Beyond being a technology provider, we partner closely with our clients to ensure that they achieve business results and success with the challenges specific to the cannabis industry. We focused on developing in-house subject matter expertise that clients have come to trust to help them carve a path in an increasingly competitive market.”
That in-house subject matter expertise starts with the Platform Quality team and extends to the innovative approach to client ad creatives by the StackAdapt Creative Studio. Private Marketplace Deals (PMPs) can be curated specifically for this industry and its audience allowing access to higher-tier inventory, inventory not available on the open exchange and greater control over the placement and performance of ads. To further assist marketers in this industry, StackAdapt released The Marketing Master Guide to Cannabis Advertising, containing some best practices, as well as helpful strategies and tips for running successful cannabis campaigns.
As StackAdapt is experiencing growth in the number of cannabis-related campaigns being executed, Abacus continues to attract LPs and cannabis brands wanting to capitalize on the opportunity of this market. They have 15 campaigns (and growing) in the US and Canada ready to go – most of them on StackAdapt.
“When we started working with cannabis brands back in 2016, which was pre-legalization in Canada, we essentially had to re-write the marketing playbook,” states Peter Reitano, CEO, Abacus. “Very few of the tactics we use for our usual clients would work, given the tight regulations. It’s forced us to be very creative and build out a specialized division in the company that solely focuses on the Canadian and emerging global cannabis industry. We work with our clients to develop beautiful brands, unique content, and compliant go-to-market campaigns that help them differentiate and win customers in an increasingly competitive space.”
Thinking-outside-the-box but staying within-the-rules?
This Blissed Case Study from Abacus illustrates their creative approach to promoting a cannabis product, while avoiding the stereotypical associations in their advertising.
This is only the start of a beautiful relationship between content and distribution. StackAdapt and Abacus aligned to focus on growing cannabis brands into thriving brands. Together, they can navigate this media landscape with exceptional innovation and creativity, while remaining mindful of ever-changing regulatory guidelines and conditions.
StackAdapt is a self-serve programmatic advertising platform used by North America’s most exceptional digital marketers. This state-of-the-art platform is where some of the most progressive work in machine learning meets cutting-edge user experience. Ad buyers plan, execute, and manage data-driven digital advertising campaigns across all devices, leveraging proprietary data, inventory and publisher partners.
Abacus is a digital performance agency with a driving force that helps companies achieve their growth objectives, specifically through mobile campaigns. Their data-driven approach applied to award-winning design talent creates scalable programs for clients, whether they’re a Fortune 500 brand or an SMB. Abacus was started by agency veteran Peter Reitano and client-side veteran Jeff Goldenberg, and the advisory board includes Round13 Capital founder and former Dragon Bruce Croxon.