Cannabis company Curaleaf has rolled out a series of ads on Twitter, following a high-profile decision by the social media company to permit the federally illegal industry to advertise.
Twitter’s decision is a first among mainstream social media networks, as tech companies contend with a pullback in digital ad spending.
“It's already been a very active platform for the cannabis industry and the fact that we can now advertise on the platform and speak to all the Twitter users in certain key markets is really exciting,” Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin told Cheddar News.
The Massachusetts-based multistate operator’s ads are curated to specific markets where it operates including Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts. “Cliq it for better cannabis,” reads text across a colorful, undulating backdrop.
PAX Labs, a cannabis vapemaker-turned plant-touching company, plans to test its first ads on the platform by the end of the month, according to VP of marketing Luke Droulez. He said the ad will direct potential consumers to product-specific storytelling pages.
Twitter announced the change Wednesday.
“As the cannabis industry has expanded, so too has the conversation on Twitter. In the US -- one of the most influential markets for cannabis -- it is larger than the conversation around topics such as pets, cooking, and golf, as well as food and beverage categories including fast food, coffee, and liquor,” Alexa Alianiello, Twitter’s head of U.S. sales and partnerships, wrote in a blog post.
The company’s guidelines for cannabis companies seeking to advertise in the U.S. are strict. They require advertisers to have appropriate licensing and seek pre-authorization from Twitter. Companies are permitted to target only jurisdictions in which they are licensed to promote their products or services online. Advertisers cannot promote the sale of cannabis, except for topicals made with hemp-derived CBD. They cannot target consumers under 21-years-old, either through appealing images or icons or young models -- models also cannot be pregnant -- and images cannot depict people who are using or intoxicated by cannabis.
Any landing pages must be age-restricted. Companies cannot make false claims about cannabis products, particularly alleged health benefits. And advertisements cannot encourage consumers to bring products across state lines.
Although the rules sound strict, Droulez said they are no more onerous than those governing other advertising mediums already available to cannabis companies for advertising.
“The good news is it's no more restrictive than any other mediums that we've been in,” he said. “We're very familiar with age and demographic and geographic targeting, to make sure that the right people are receiving our ads.”
It’s clear what benefits cannabis companies might reap from advertising on a platform with daily active users numbering around 200 million, according to Twitter’s own estimates in 2022. But there are also benefits to be had for tech companies like Twitter.
As the economy sours, a pullback in digital ad spending precipitated widespread layoffs at major tech companies like Amazon, Google parent company Alphabet, Meta and Microsoft, representing in some cases the most significant layoffs in company history, CNBC reported. Twitter was hit especially hard following its acquisition by controversial billionaire Elon Musk. A report from The Information found 500 of the company’s top advertisers had fled as of mid-January.
Cannabis is not immune from economic volatility hitting industries across the board. Curaleaf was among a spate of cannabis companies to announce layoffs and downsizing as recently as January. But some cannabis companies are evidently willing to shell out for a new opportunity at a time when companies in other industries are tightening their belts.
“We are being very selective in terms of where we're allocating our marketing dollars but this is a brand new opportunity,” Darin explained. “This was the first major social media platform allowing us to advertise, and so that's really a whole new world for us.”
Rosie Mattio, CEO and founder of cannabis public relations firm MATTIO Communications, worked with Twitter to advise which companies may want to advertise first and how to educate the community about this new effort, among other things. She told Cheddar News that Twitter shouldn’t be dinged for viewing cannabis ads as a revenue opportunity.
“It's gonna be great for the social network, because they will have those cannabis dollars. For cannabis companies, they now have an entire new audience where they can market their services or products,” she said.
“I actually hope other facets of of this country see that cannabis dollars can be very helpful,” she later added.
Twitter may be the first social media company to permit cannabis advertising, but other major tech companies have gradually warmed to CBD and hemp ads.
Google in January announced it would permit ads for CBD-based pharmaceutical drugs, and topical hemp products containing 0.3 percent or less THC in certain states. Reddit permits ads for topical CBD products, subject to specific restrictions. Facebook parent company Meta also allows some hemp ads, TechCrunch reported.