It’s November 2017 and I can’t wait to share our new products with the world. They make you feel good on the inside and glow on the outside. Plus, we’re one of the first companies to enter a brand new wellness category. It seems like there’s a blue ocean of opportunity.
But first, we need to educate people on the benefits of hemp seed nutrition. Hemp seeds are the main ingredient in our products, but they’re new and people need to be convinced before clicking ‘buy’.
What better way to take people on the journey than a killer Facebook funnel… right?
So, we get our website up, content created, audiences selected, budget set… and hit publish. I get a few ads running, but they are abruptly taken down. I try again, but they are all rejected, so I send endless and unanswered requests for human reviews. I even attended Facebook marketing events, just to open a dialogue with Facebook staff.
Where have I ended up? Permanently silenced.
Despite being sold on supermarket shelves in Australia (not to mention nearly every other country in the world), advertising ingestible hemp products is prohibited on Facebook and Instagram. It never ceases to amaze me that Facebook can identify all my friends’ faces in photos, yet they’re unable to discern between hemp foods and marijuana.
It’s a limitation that our brands, Hemple and Soul Seed, as well as many of our peers’ locally and abroad, have faced with frustration.
Local regulations, as well as advertising policies, are changing constantly, making it difficult for hemp brands to work out how to market. These policies impact where brands can advertise, the creative that can be used and product claims that can be made.
It’s an inconvenience, but the uncertain and inconsistent framework has ultimately challenged us to be more creative and resourceful.
Here are my top three ingestible hemp-friendly, digital advertising channels. All offer a degree of audience targeting and attribution that advertisers love about Facebook platforms.
1. Google Adwords
Google allows for hemp foods and topicals to be advertised across all their platforms (search, display, YouTube and shopping). This offers superior discoverability when targeting audiences with purchase intent. At this stage, hemp CBD products are still unable to be advertised through Google.
Snapchat’s policies allow for products with 0% THC to be promoted. This includes hemp foods, but also CBD products such as tinctures, gummies, topicals and more. CBD products are not able to be sold in Australia without a prescription, but are growing in popularity in less heavily regulated markets such as the US, UK and EU.
To be approved by Snapchat, the ads must not make any therapeutic claims. The ads also need to be age- and region-gated.
3. Display networks
There are multiple hemp-friendly programmatic display networks. Quantcast, Taboola and Traffic Roots are three that allow hemp brands to promote, as long as the creative does not contain health claims.
Facebook and Instagram have opened up their advertising platform for hemp skincare and topical brands. Approval is contingent on the creative being devoid of health claims and the advertiser selling no ingestible hemp products on their website alongside the topicals. Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter and Amazon allow for hemp foods, but not hemp CBD ads.
While the hemp boom is ‘new’, interestingly, it’s the old-guard media, such as radio, television, print and outdoor, that have been more open than many ‘new’ (digital) media owners when it comes to advertising hemp. While these channels may not provide the same attribution capabilities, they do offer flexibility.
As a brand, our strategy has primarily focused on grassroots promotion — specifically, education and word of mouth. We’ve invested in content marketing, Instagram influencers, podcasts, experiential and brand partnerships to drive engagement, talk-ability and earned media.