Marijuana Radio

Educating consumers about CBD can be challenging with the limitations of digital advertising—and despite caution about marketing such products over traditional platforms, an increasing number of companies are turning to audio. Hath, a newly launched CBD brand, is spending money on podcasts for its newly launched CBD brand, while CBD company Koi has placed radio ads in Southern California.

As a lengthy feature story in Digiday notes, “Educating consumers about CBD can be hard to do with digital. That’s why some brands are looking to audio advertising to get testimonials about the products out there.”

The ability to discuss the quality of its product is fundamental to Koi, thus its reliance on radio, says Tod Campbell, the company’s VP of Sales, in Digiday. He explains that radio ads allow the ability to talk about third-party testing, on which it spends $30,000 a month to verify that its product has genuine CBD. “(Radio) offers more flexibility than other platforms, but still has to be careful about what you say.”

Kelley Ireland-Kelly, co-founder and CMO of Hath, says in the story, “You really have to avoid language that would send red flags to the FDA. The challenge is that it doesn’t really provide a lot of information for the customer or solve a lot of their questions because our ads that are approved have to stay pretty vague.”

CBD is indeed a booming business. Digiday notes that in recent years, brands have added CBD to everything from makeup to pet-care; by 2024, BDS Analytics estimates that CBD sales will be more than $20 billion in the U.S. — although, of course, advertising CBD products isn’t easy. Federal and state laws, as well as advertising policies across platforms, are changing constantly, making it difficult for CBD brands to figure out how to market, as Digiday explains. Those regulations and policies impact not only where CBD brands can advertise, but what the creative should look like, claims that the brands can make and what those brands can pitch to consumers.

While consistent warnings continue to be hammered home about advertising pot and CBD products on radio—as Inside Radio has regularly reported—broadcasters definitely have their eye on the prize. In an industry forecast for the second half of 2019, Radio Advertising Bureau CEO Erica Farber told Inside Radio last week, “There are two categories the radio industry is really keeping an eye on: cannabis and sports betting. We know the dollars are there,” while acknowledging that for both, “There are still some concerns and risk involved in accepting those ads… But those areas will continue to grow and we want to make sure radio is allowed to share in that.”

Farber added, “Cannabis is very top of mind – there are a handful of stations that are accepting it.” And as more states are approving its sale and it’s becoming more of an accepted mainstream consumer product, “I want to make sure if this category is growing, we all need to be made aware of what we need to be doing and who we need to be talking to. If, in fact, one day the restrictions are lifted, it’s going to be important for radio to be part of that story and not miss out.”

For one, “Cannabis Cup” was recently flying high at radio—although it is not a CBD concoction, but rather an event—which should not raise any red flags with the feds. “The world’s leading marijuana trade show,” Aug. 17-18 in Detroit, is sponsored by High Times. Its radio spots ranked within the top 100 nationally for the week ending June 24, 2019, according to Media Monitors. They were taken out by a High Times Group subsidiary known as Trans-High Corp., a pharmaceutical company founded in 1974, according to Bloomberg.

Even as more brands enter the market and advertising remains a tough call, consumer interest in CBD is rapidly burgeoning. “You can’t underestimate consumer interest in CBD,” said Michael Klein CEO of CannabisMD, an online library on cannabis and cannabidiol, in Digiday. “It is one of the most searched terms in the U.S. on the internet and globally. That consumer interest has completely outpaced the regulatory bodies, the regulatory bodies inside each of the platforms and that’s why we’re seeing the updates regularly. We’re just at the beginning.”