Programmatic media at scale holds so much promise in helping cannabis companies achieve their marketing goals. The data enhanced automation of manual media buying and selling driven by people provides people-based advertising with less waste and a controlled user experience. 

However, the opportunities to scale success are complicated by compliance. Federal and state regulations for advertising, if addressed at all, are complex and ever-evolving. A fragmented media and technology landscape is developing. We must address the value programmatic brings to a category where federal regulations, creative restrictions, consumer bias, and misinformation create hesitations from media buyers and publishers.

In response to the growing need for creating standards around cannabis in the self-regulated advertising industry, The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released “Programmatic Advertising: A Close Look at Cannabis: An educational guide to applying the principles of automated ad buying to the nuances of the cannabis product category.”  The whitepaper serves as an educational resource to level set the advertising community in this new vertical, focusing on legal restrictions, targeting needs and creative compliance. 

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This whitepaper will certainly set industry leaders up for success, but what’s more noteworthy is it signals the arrival and legitimization of cannabis as a mainstream category no different than automotive, CPG, or alcohol. As governments recognize cannabis as “essential” and consumers increasingly express acceptance, leaders in the media industry must learn to reconcile the growing category demand and nuanced regulatory challenges. 

While this is a moment to celebrate, it’s also just the first step in standardizing an industry approach to capitalize on and comply with the cannabis category. Over time key programmatic stakeholders must learn to manage the compliance process, a nuanced exercise involving regulatory comprehension coupled with individual business needs. Industry players must keep up with up-to-date information across the federal, state, and municipal regulatory landscape as well as the ad policy guidelines of ad tech demand, supply and data. And decision-makers must identify the technology solutions, time requirements, and resources that executing cannabis campaigns require.  

From the world’s first automated cannabis compliance verification tool to the largest regulatory database for cannabis businesses, emerging categories like cannabis require emerging technology to scale. Those in the media industry who learn to adapt, anticipate, and identify the tools to scale will be among the first to benefit from one of the fastest-growing consumer categories.

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