By on September 23rd, 2020

The PrograMetrix Guide to Digital Audio Ads for Cannabis & CBD

CBD & Cannabis Streaming Music & Podcast Advertising

With traditional “linear” radio ads generally closed to cannabis and CBD brands, audio advertising is an often-overlooked channel within cannabis advertising more generally, and these ads are seldom considered by cannabis marketers. Digital audio ads, however, are more open to cannabis and CBD ad buys through programmatic advertising platforms, and far more brands should be using them.

Below, we explain how CBD and cannabis digital audio ads can be run, how to keep them legally compliant, and how to use them as part of a larger cannabis or CBD advertising strategy.

Digital Audio Advertising for Cannabis & CBD

As explained by SFGate, “Programmatic audio [automates] the selling and insertion of ads in digital audio content such as AM/FM radio and music-streaming services and the like. Radio boasts about its ability to reach large audiences, and though it may generate massive reach, we live in a world where conversion alone matters … Programmatic audio enables advertisers to target beyond simple demographics.”

Digital audio ads work the same way other programmatic ads do—they offer the same campaign setup and optimization options, allow for data-based audience targeting, and offer strong measurement and attribution capabilities. Brands can target CBD and cannabis audiences with audio ads on streaming music and radio platforms like Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and Soundcloud as those listeners stream music, podcasts, and other audio content.

First- and third-party data sets allow for precise targeting of audio ads, and companion banner ads that appear on the screen to accompany the audio allow for tracking clicks, conversions, and campaign success. Recommended formats and specifications for digital audio ad creative are as follow:

  • Supported file types: MP3, M4A, WAV
  • Minimum recommended bitrate: 160 kbps
  • Recommended lengths: 15 and/or 30 seconds
  • Companion banners: Some inventory sources allow for an optional companion banner that is displayed while the audio ad is running. The recommended size for a companion banner is 300x250, and the banner should be a JPEG, JPG, or PNG file. (Note: Pandora also accepts a 500x500 companion banner.)

According to Edison Research and Triton Digital, 64% of Americans listened to online radio, and 26% to podcasts, as of 2018—and both numbers have grown since then, following the general trend of increasing mobile phone and other connected device usage. As noted by Webcast Metrics, more than three-quarters of streaming audio listening takes place on mobile devices, generally on the go.

See also: Digital Audio Advertising 101: The Current State of Digital Audio & Limitations Impacting Faster Growth

How to Run Compliant Audio Ads

Digital Audio Ads Reach in 2020

Digital audio advertising currently offers more inventory for CBD brands than for cannabis-specific ones, but options are slowly expanding for cannabis, too. Mainstream audio companies, such as iHeartRadio, are beginning to run cannabis ads; that said, they aren’t all proclaiming this fact to the masses yet.

For any cannabis or CBD brand interested in testing out audio advertising (which all brands should), it’s a good idea to get started on developing digital audio ad creative right away—most brands don’t have these assets ready to run yet, and those who do can launch audio ads through existing platforms while adding new options as they become available. For businesses who choose to run them, digital audio ads offer an excellent way to stand out from competitors and reach audiences in an engaging and immersive way.

Cannabis, CBD, hemp, and dispensary brands can run legally compliant digital audio ads using programmatic ad tech. Most CBD brands will be able to use mainstream programmatic ad tech; most cannabis and dispensary brands will be able to use cannabis-specific programmatic ad tech. Through either technology, ad compliance is ensured by targeting listeners 21 and over wherever the products in question are legal.

While advertising regulations vary by state, they can be boiled down to a few broadly applicable guidelines that apply to audio as well as CTV, video, display, mobile, and native ads:

  • No suggestion of health or medical benefits
  • No elements that could appeal to children (cartoon characters, etc.)
  • No false or misleading statements, including those made about competitors’ products
  • No testimonials or endorsements
  • No product consumption
  • No pricing, potency statements, or promotional offers
  • Ads for infused products must state “For Adult Use Only”

Benefits of Digital Audio for CBD & Cannabis Brands

In 2020, the average US adult will spend more time listening to digital audio than listening to standard radio. Per eMarketer, adults spend about an hour a day listening to audio content, and that content is often turned on in situations where screens otherwise aren’t. Whether it’s a morning run, the commute to work, a walk to get coffee, or while cooking dinner, the many scenarios in which consumers aren’t paying attention to their screens can leave advertisers hanging—unless they’re leveraging digital audio to fill the gaps.

Digital audio is widely popular across most demographics, but particularly with high-value cannabis and CBD consumers between the ages of 21 and 34. This makes it an ad format that’s still growing quickly within the programmatic landscape—and with the continued rise of podcasts and streaming music services in recent years, digital audio’s market share is expected to continue increasing.

Digital audio is a fantastic channel for audience concentration and engagement, even when listeners are multi-tasking (as they frequently do while consuming digital audio). This statement is particularly true among podcast listeners: A Midroll Media survey of over 150,000 podcast listeners found that 60% of them had purchased a product after hearing it advertised on a podcast.

See also: Digital Audio Advertising 201: Top 10 Reasons to Implement Digital Audio Ads

Like connected TV ads, audio advertisements offer brands 100% share-of-voice during their 15- or 30-second segment. Unlike CTV, though, digital audio ads are more engagement-friendly, due to the ability for listeners to engage with the ad through companion display banners for simultaneous visual communication, click-through, and conversion. Audio advertising is also budget-friendly; digital audio’s price point, while higher than display or native ads, generally falls slightly below video ads, making this an affordable way to engage your existing and potential future customers with a format that tends to yield great ROI.


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Brett Konen is the senior marketing manager at PrograMetrix.

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