Consumers, cannabis, context: Exploring a growing industry

IAS asked consumers about how they perceive advertising in cannabis environments

05/14 By IAS Team

In the last five years, the increasing medicalization and, in some states, legalization of cannabis products has led to a rapid expansion of the commercial industry for cannabis-related goods. Between 2017 and 2018, for example, cannabis retail advertisers increased spend for digital display ads by 190%. But for most advertisers, cannabis is an understandably touchy category and represents unchartered territory. As the cannabis industry grows, advertisers are left to wonder: is cannabis content a brand suitable environment?

IAS ran an online survey to determine consumer perceptions toward ads found within cannabis content environments as well as advertisements focused on cannabis products.

It’s important to note that cannabis is the overarching scientific term used to describe hemp, marijuana plants, and associated products. Consider this term to be the vertical, much like finance, CPG, or automotive. If this is new information for you, you’re not alone: IAS found that consumers are generally not knowledgeable about the cannabis sector as a whole. Still, a majority of respondents agree that environments containing cannabis content are suitable spaces in which to advertise—regardless of their home state’s cannabis legality.

It’s also likely that the increase in cannabis retail advertising in the last couple of years has started to normalize the topic. When it comes to cannabis as the focus of the ads themselves, 62% of respondents are open to seeing cannabis advertisements in mainstream media.

Overall, consumers are receptive to seeing advertisements alongside cannabis content, but IAS also found that favorability varies slightly depending on the sentiment of the content, as well as the legal status of a consumer’s home state. To learn more about what consumers think about cannabis content and advertising, download our latest survey below.

In 2020, the IAB Data Center of Excellence recruited IAS as part of a working group of ad tech experts, brands, and publishers to educate the online media community on the application of programmatic ad buying to the nuances of the cannabis category. The resulting white paper is designed as an educational resource to inform the advertising community on this growing ad category, with a focus on audience targeting, legal restrictions, and the creative and brand safety challenges within this complicated category.

Download Research