While societal attitudes towards marijuana are loosening across the United States, much of the Internet still remains anti-cannabis, at least where advertising is concerned. Unfortunately, this discrimination against the leaf has proved challenging for members of the cannabis industry interested in digital advertising.
“There’s a lack of support from tech companies in general for cannabis companies,” Paris Holley, co-founder of an ad network called Mantis, recently told AdWeek, noting that companies like Facebook have strict polices in place that make it difficult for marijuana marketers to promote their business.
The majority of this problem exists because most mainstream websites do not want to be associated with pot businesses, while cannabis-related websites do not want connected to the mainstream. The infrastructure established for digital advertising is not marijuana friendly, said Holley. National brands do not want to show up on a site promoting marijuana and vice versa. “There’s just a fear that they’ll put other companies in their portfolios at risk.”
This is where Mantis hopes to facilitate the digital nightmare. The company has put together a network of around 60 marijuana-themed websites that are more than welcoming towards advertisers involved in the cannabis trade. Yet, even with the emergence of tech firms like Mantis, there are still those cannabis companies perturbed about the virtual prohibition against advertising in the mainstream world.
Facebook allows businesses to specifically target potential customers based on their interests. It is an amazing tool, said Zach Marburger, CEO of the pot app company Cannabuild, unless you are selling anything pertaining to marijuana. “We spent roughly $2,800 and then our Facebook ads were canceled,” he said. “I wish I could have spent more; it performed so masterfully.”
In the meantime, some changes are taking place on the Internet that could, perhaps, persuade Facebook to change its anti-pot policy sometime in the future. Twitter and Google, who used to strictly prohibit marijuana-related advertising, are starting to allow it under certain conditions.
“Google and Twitter are cannabis-friendly right now,” said Marburger, explaining that there are limitations to the types of ads that are permitted. But it is getting better.