By on November 11th, 2020

Can’t Get Your CBD Ads Approved on Facebook or Google? Here’s What to DoAlternatives to Advertising CBD on Facebook & Google (Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash)


It’s not you—it’s them. Most CBD and cannabis brands can’t get approved to run ads on Google or Facebook. Those who do get lucky at first and receive initial search or social ad approval may still find that their ads are reported or taken down later on. While those who are able to secure approval should leverage these channels, there are also other ways to advertise CBD online. These digital ad alternatives for CBD are grouped under the umbrella of programmatic advertising.

See also: The Ultimate Guide to Programmatic Advertising for CBD & Cannabis

While there are workarounds out there for increasing your chances of search and social ad approval (we’ve even shared some), the fact of the matter is that nothing is currently guaranteed to succeed. This is due to the unusually strict internal policies enforced by both platforms, and we don’t recommend pushing your luck by trying every trick on the internet: You’re more likely to lose your profile or account entirely than you are to find a way through the algorithm-automated censorship.

Instead, our professional recommendation is to wait until the rules change—whether at the platform level or the federal level—to give it another shot. Facebook and Google are just two websites out of the nearly two billion on the internet. They’re the two largest, but CBD and cannabis brands shouldn’t waste their time on ad resubmissions or pretend to be something they’re not in order to secure ad approval. Instead, you can use programmatic advertising to automate running ads on other sites, where your advertisements can run compliantly and speak openly to your audience about the products you have to offer.

Programmatic CBD Ads: An Alternative to Search & Social

Programmatic ads can reach the same audiences that search and social advertising can: They simply reach them in different places. Programmatic advertising technology uses a combination of first-, second-, and third-party data sets to reach your target audience on whatever website they happen to be surfing. For example, you can create an audience from your organic social media followers, then show them ads on the various non-social websites that they visit in their day-to-day life.

See also: What’s a Programmatic Ad Agency, & Why Do I Need One?

The average internet user visits hundreds of sites per day, so just because your promoted CBD post can’t show up in your potential customer’s news feed doesn’t mean that it can’t be seen by that potential customer at all. Running the same ad message on another site may even be cheaper than running it on Facebook or Google. Because these two sites only run ads purchased through their own platforms, they set the prices. But most other websites accept ads through a programmatic system called real-time bidding (RTB), which sells ad inventory at the price people are willing to pay in that moment, and not a cent higher.

Since real-time bidding adjusts pricing based on demand, programmatic advertising is the most cost-effective method of advertising on the internet.

How to Target Your CBD Ads

Programmatic advertising can include a wide variety of digital ad formats, including display, mobile, native, video, connected TV, and digital audio ads. Like Facebook and Google ads, all of these programmatic ad types can be targeted based on:

  • Demographic information
  • Geolocation information
  • Type or topic of content a user is viewing
  • Past online shopping and browsing behaviors
  • Past visits to your site or inclusion in your CRM

See also: Audience Targeting 101: How to Show Your Digital Ads to the Right People

Advanced targeting capabilities like these are what make Facebook and Google ads so effective, but they can be just as effective when used through programmatic advertising campaigns. The ability to avoid wasted media spend and reach the right people in the right places at the right times is why 85% of all digital ads are run programmatically.

5 Ways to Substitute Programmatic for Facebook or Google Ads

Target your ads based on app ownership.

A lot of what makes Google Ads great for many advertisers is the information the platform’s keyword search data provides on user intent. While you can’t use CBD or cannabis keywords to advertise on Google (though the use of hemp keywords is allowed), you can understand aspects of your target audience’s intent through other data sets offered by programmatic platforms, such as data on app ownership.

For example, on Google you may have hoped to reach people searching for terms like ‘holistic healing’ or ‘anxiety relief.’ With app ownership data, you can reach much of the same audience by showing your ads to people who have downloaded yoga, cannabis, or meditation apps like Down Dog, Leafly, or Headspace.

Reach beyond your customers to find investors, partners, and more.

Many CBD brands are searching for investors, and we’ve helped some of them run campaigns designed specifically to reach that audience. While Facebook and Instagram generally aren’t the sort of places investors go to look for their next investment opportunity, reaching them with targeted ads on business websites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and others may increase the likelihood that they’ll actually consider your message when they see it.

Using contextual targeting, you can even place in-article native ads on pieces of content about investing in the cannabis industry. Whatever your current marketing goals, there’s probably a way you can get creative with digital advertising campaigns in order to achieve them.

See also: SEO Best Practices for CBD Companies

Use programmatic to grow your own email list.

Email is a more effective channel for owned media marketing than semi-owned social channels like Facebook and Instagram. This is because you are in control of the messages you send to your email list, whereas at the end of the day Facebook controls the messages you send to your social following. Some marketers would argue that it’s better to have an engaged email list of 1,000 than an audience of 10,000 on social.

Develop ads that offer a site-wide discount or product sample in exchange for an email signup, then cultivate that list as it grows by consistently providing high-value content, new product information, and subscriber-only offers. You can do the same to build your list for SMS marketing.

Amplify your press coverage with paid media.

Public relations and press outreach are an important part of any digital marketing strategy, but this form of earned media (which refers to things like press coverage, customer reviews, and organic influencer endorsements) is generally the toughest coverage to get (hence the name). When you do get a great write-up in the local news, a shout-out from an Instagram influencer, or even a great testimonial from a customer, use ads to make that good news work harder for your brand.

Rather than simply sharing a story or testimonial organically on your LinkedIn or Facebook and getting a few likes, you can leverage paid media to get this powerful social proof in front of far more eyes as you work to turn those potential customers into conversions and even more social proof.

See also: Owned, Earned, & Paid Media for Cannabis: Which Are Worth Your Time?

Advertise to grow your organic social media audience.

For those who still want social media to play a large part in their digital marketing plan regardless of their ability to advertise there, your social marketing efforts will have a greater impact the larger your organic audience is. Using digital ads, you can grow your social audience more rapidly by enticing people to follow your brand in exchange for a promo code, special offer, or social-only piece of content.


Want to learn more about programmatic advertising opportunities for your CBD brand? We’re here to help—just get in touch.

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Brett Konen is the senior marketing manager at PrograMetrix.

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