• Rick Messitt

The Ban on Paid Advertising for CBD Products - What does it mean for your CBD Skincare Brand?

Updated: Jul 19

CBD products are seeing explosive growth in popularity globally.


To anyone who has spent any time in the industry or working with cannabis, this is not really a surprise.


It does not take long to scratch beneath the surface of this burgeoning industry to discover countless consumers raving about how much a CBD oil, edible or skincare product has vastly improved their quality of life.


A real success story driven by real experiences and word of mouth.


What is more amazing is that the industry has achieved so much despite facing countless very real, very painful hurdles when it comes to acceptance.


Public Liability Insurance? – Expect to pay heavy premiums and find many providers unwilling to quote.


Banking relationships? Do-able, but expect more barriers and hoops to jump through.


Online payment providers? PayPal isn’t going to do you any favours here. More niche providers will offer services, but you will be excluded from the most well known and trusted payment rails.


Tough going right?


Unfortunately, that’s just the start of a long list.


Fear not resilient CBD brand owner! Where we can, we will continue to share our experiences, top tips, and things we at Cannafull have learned the hard way, so that you don’t have to!


In this post, we are going to look at one aspect of running a CBD brand that we know most companies find particularly frustrating: the widespread prohibition on online paid advertising perpetrated by our new rulers. Namely Facebook, Twitter and Google.


CBD Products – The Ban on Advertising on Facebook, Google & Twitter


So as most of you are well aware, advertising on the major social media platforms is currently prohibited for any cannabis related product. Except for maybe Hemp t-shirts and fabrics, I think you’ll be alright with those.


For the rest of us. The situation looks a little like this:


Ascend Skincare Instagram Account
Ascend Skincare

Long story short, you simply cannot run paid promotions on various platforms owned by Twitter, Facebook or Google.

Social media is fraught with difficulty if you are a CBD brand. Just last week Cannafull’s page was temporarily restricted for undisclosed ‘unusual activity’.



Cannafull Twitter Restrictions
Cannafull Twitter Restrictions

Social media accounts will sometimes be locked if:


- They have been hacked.

- They post offensive content.

- They post spam.

- They play the follow / unfollow game to grow their account.


We do none of the above. We don’t know exactly why our account would be restricted like this, but for anyone paying attention it seems like there might be one common denominator; cannabis.


Thankfully, we managed to appeal and have our account unblocked. You can find us on Twitter here.


That’s a small glimpse into our experience to date but some of you might be thinking “I have definitely seen some CBD products advertised on these platforms” - and you’d be right.


The problem is, if you do get through the filters, and some do, you might risk having your pages shut down entirely. Spent months getting to 5k followers that gives you regular monthly business? Well It could all be for nothing overnight, is it worth rolling the dice?


The Implications of the Ban on CBD Advertising


Not being able to advertise on these platforms is a real challenge for any CBD brand.


Like it or not these companies dominate the advertising market. Google, Facebook and Amazon now collect more than half of all ad dollars spent in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)


Why?


Well, it’s simple really. We are all addicted to our phones and this is by design. These ferociously well-designed apps are masterful in the way they release dopamine into our brains and keep us fixated and interacting within their platforms. This is all documented by their talented engineers. Pavlov doesn’t hold a candle to Zuckerberg and Dorsey. Impressive if a little worrying.


Smartphone Addiction
Smartphone Addiction

The result? Advertisers spend here because their customers spend most of their time here. It is the most effective way to reach them.


With this avenue effectively blocked for cannabis-related brands, it makes it hugely more challenging to get your brand noticed, build rapport with your customers, and drive online sales.


Yes, CBD brands can typically run an organic page on these platforms but unless you go viral, achieving the same reach as a paid post is programmed to be impossible. The platforms will always promote posts that spend money with them more than an organic post from your feed.


Now there are of course other ways to advertise, and I would never advocate a marketing strategy that relies solely on paid ads. But to not have this channel available at all? In 2021? Yeah, that’s like marketing with one arm tied behind your back.


Organic growth is of course possible, but is MUCH slower, so CBD brands need more resilience, staying power, creativity and ultimately a longer ‘financial runway’ when starting out.


The Ban on CBD Advertising – Appropriate or a Glaring Hypocrisy?


No surprises for my stance on this question. I’m understandably biased.

Let’s explore some examples of why a blanket ban for cannabis products on these platforms represents a glaring hypocrisy:


Alcohol


Created a brand-new Gin? No, problem. With the right permission you can advertise across all of these platforms.


Understandably, you will of course have to follow local laws and only target appropriate accounts, but you will be able to promote an alcoholic beverage.


I don’t want to wade into the debate about cannabis vs alcohol but to illustrate my point, ONS stats show that is that alcohol is currently the registered cause of over 7,000 deaths per year in the UK. It is not a ‘risk-free’ product.


I’m not advocating for a ban on the promotion of alcohol, I think it should be available to be enjoyed in moderation with the right controls in place. There does however seem to be a disconnect in the fact that I can advertise an alcoholic beverage with known, potentially serious risks, but a CBD moisturiser is strictly off limits.


What’s more, a lot of countries are now legalising cannabis for recreational use. If alcohol producers can target appropriate accounts if following local bylaws, then shouldn’t the same rules apply for cannabis?


Online Gambling


A bit of harmless fun for the majority but a black hole of misery for many.


Personally, I’m not a fan. A survey commissioned by the charity GambleAware estimates that up to 2.7% of adults in the UK (around 1.4 million people) were problem gamblers. They also found that 7% of adults (around 3.6 million people) have been negatively impacted by someone else’s gambling problem.


Staggering numbers.


The worst gambling addiction cases can end in broken families, destroyed livelihoods and, unfortunately in a lot of cases loss of life.


So, can you advertise an online gambling service online?

Online Gambling Ad
Online Gambling Ad


Yep!








How about our White Label CBD Lubricant?






Nope!










There are hundreds more examples of things much more harmful than a CBD moisturiser that can be advertised on these platforms. We don’t need to explore them all in depth. A couple more quick examples should do it:


Plastic Surgery


Want to improve the way you look? Great! You'll find adverts for local plastic surgeons on Facebook.


We mustn't promote applying a CBD Night Cream there, but rebuilding your face entirely? No problem!


Sugar


Worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975. As of 2019, 39% of adults over the age of 18 are classed as overweight and 18% as obese according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is a very real and growing problem globally.


So can you advertise sugar-laden snacks and soft drinks?


Of course!


Will you have to mention the very real addictive properties of sugar? The risk of overconsumption, shortened life span and Diabetes?


Nope! That would hurt sales. Fire away, it's totally appropriate to stuff a pasta sauce with 18g of sugar and sell it as a healthy 'home-cooked' alternative to take-aways.


OK, so surely we would be able to promote taking some time-out for a relaxing bath and a bit of pampering with a Detox Charcoal CBD Mask?


Nope!

You get the picture. As you can tell, I would really like to be able to advertise our CBD skincare products. Our products are all legal for sale, fully accredited by 3rd party labs with Cosmetic Product Safety Reports (CPSRs) and batch cannabinoid testing - not to mention they are registered with both UK and EU authorities.


As for CBD brands selling ingestible products. Are they really expected to spend hundreds of thousands on Novel Food licencing to abide by local laws to find they still cannot advertise their products on these platforms? What more validation is required?


The platforms mentioned above have also shown, through the marketing of products like alcohol, that all of the necessary filters and targeting features to enable the marketing of cannabis products to only appropriate audiences already exist.


In my mind, this leaves only two possible courses of action.


1) The aforementioned tech giants amend their out-of-date policies.


2) We will be forced to create fake political pages and use our FB ad budgets to sway an election for a pro-cannabis candidate. Anyone got the number for the Kremlin?

A Nervous Zuckerberg in Court