By Brett Konen on August 12th, 2020
The PrograMetrix Guide to Video Ads for Cannabis & CBD
Many consumers simply prefer video ads over any other format: They’re immersive, visually compelling, and often entertaining. By 2022, digital videos are expected to represent more than 82% of all consumer traffic on the internet—a massive 15-fold increase in the space of five years. According to HubSpot, 72% of customers would already prefer to learn about a product or service through video.
Video ads can be shown programmatically across thousands of mainstream websites: For cannabis, CBD, dispensary, and hemp marketers, these ads are capable of yielding substantial ROI and are usually worth the investment. Below, we outline the basics of video advertising, explain how to run legally compliant video ad campaigns, and share five reference examples of cannabis and CBD video ads.
How to Create Video Ads for CBD or Cannabis
Video used to be a rarified marketing channel for only the best-funded brands. Today, the vast majority of marketers use video as a part of their strategy, and 88% of them report that video yields a positive ROI. According to Grand View Research, the global market for digital video ads was valued at $19.7 billion in 2019, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.1% through 2027. Although video ads cost more up front to create than most other formats, if your brand is able to make the investment we highly recommend exploring video advertising—the ROAS is capable of making your effort well worth it.
Most video ads are short: Either 15 or 30 seconds, and often as few as five. While brands like Apple may choose to create a many-minute ad on occasion, cannabis and CBD marketers should generally start with lengths of 60 seconds or less to test the channel’s reach and reception with their audience prior to tackling anything more ambitious. Research on traditional TV advertising has shown 15-second ads to be about 75% as effective as their 30-second counterparts, so depending on the relative difference in price, shorter lengths can be a bargain for marketers, particularly those looking to break into video advertising for the first time.
While it’s technically possible to shoot a video ad on your smartphone and edit it yourself, we recommend working with a professional to ensure that the quality of the ad reflects well on your brand. Luckily, this can be far cheaper than you think: There are plenty of alternatives to shooting original footage, including buying stock footage available online and using a contractor to edit or hiring an artist to create simple animations. Even static image ads can become video ads with a bit of text and a few transitions: According to Facebook, this basic tactic improves engagement or conversions for nearly 70% of brands using video ads on social media.
For live-action video, brands can hire a contractor to shoot at their dispensary or facility for a day or even a half-day; the videographer will likely shoot a mix of A- and B-roll, which can then be edited into a variety of video ads after the shoot. For best results from filming, brands should work with their videographer in advance to brainstorm:
- a list of video concepts they’d like to create;
- a loosely scripted outline of each idea;
- a shot list to ensure that everything needed is captured on location in the time available.
A few key types of footage to shoot include interviews with brand representatives or willing customers, product close-ups, and varied shots of your dispensary or team members in action. Don’t forget to get signed video releases for any customers or employees who appear in your footage: This is required in order to feature any identifiable person in a commercial video.
In post-production, you can (and generally should) supplement your footage with additional on-screen copy—captions, call-outs, your logo, a dispensary address, and so on. This allows you to fit more information into your video (the same is true of adding a voice-over). When the editing is finished and the ads are ready to run, you’ll also need a click-through link—as with other formats, we recommend sending interested viewers to a landing page designed to get them as close as possible to a conversion (think CBD product pages where consumers can purchase product, or your dispensary menu for online ordering, rather than your homepage).
How to Run Compliant Cannabis Video Ads
Already, video ads can be shown programmatically across thousands of sites: YouTube, for one, is the second-largest search engine in the world, but most publishers offering display and native advertising options will also support video ads on their own sites.
Cannabis, CBD, and dispensary brands can all run legally compliant video ads as part of their digital ad campaigns. Most CBD brands use mainstream programmatic technology to do so, while most cannabis brands and dispensary advertisers use cannabis-specific programmatic platforms. Through either technology, compliance with local advertising rules and restrictions is ensured by using ad targeting to reach viewers 21 and over wherever the brand and their ads are legal. In short, programmatic video uses the same audiences, publishers, and targeting capabilities as any other programmatic ad formats—the primary difference is the creative itself.
Programmatic platforms generally support the following video specs:
- File types: .MP4, .FLV, .WEBM, .MOV, .MPG, or .MPEG.
- File size: 200 MB or less.
- Formats: 16:9 or 4:3.
- Bitrate: Over 2500 kbps is preferred.
- Length: Between five seconds and five minutes.
While marketing and advertising regulations vary from state to state, they can be boiled down to a few broadly applicable guidelines that apply to video ads as well as display, mobile, native, and other ad formats:
- 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”
Cannabis brands in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington are required to include their own state-specific disclaimer copy in ad creative. Cannabis business in Florida also need to submit their ad creative for review through a state-specific approval process. For a complete list of state-by-state cannabis advertising information, check out our compliance guidelines for cannabis and CBD digital ads.
Benefits of Video Ads for CBD & Cannabis
As IAB notes in their guide to digital video advertising, “Sight, sound, and motion have always been the most engaging way to reach an audience.” By combining all three, video ads excel at combatting ad blindness. They also offer advertisers 100% share-of-voice—unlike display ads (which may be shown next to ads for other brands), it’s tough for anyone to be watching multiple videos at the same time, meaning the viewer is more likely to actually be paying attention while you’re trying to connect with them. According to AdRoll, click-through rate (CTR) triples for video ads as compared to ads with no video.
While it’s worth noting that there’s less video ad inventory around the web than there is display ad inventory, which can affect campaign scale, there are also fewer brands bidding for it. This is particularly true in the CBD and cannabis industries: Less than 10% of cannabis marketers currently leverage digital video ads, which serves as a huge advantage for those brands who do, allowing them to set themselves apart from their competitors.
Another value add, one particularly relevant for essential cannabis businesses during COVID-19, is that video allows you to actually show your business or brand in action, rather than simply telling your audience about it. Pandemic or not, this makes for engaging storytelling, but it also lets consumers unsure about cannabis, CBD, or visiting a dispensary preview the potential experience in advance.
One dispensary that has successfully harnessed this aspect of video ads is The Bakeréé: When the pandemic hit, the Seattle cannabis retailer developed video ads showcasing its online ordering process, including testimonials from older customers and shots of budtenders making contactless deliveries to people in their cars. This allowed hesitant existing customers (as well as potential new ones) to assess the situation for themselves, which was far easier when they could actually see The Bakeréé in action. Had The Bakeréé simply told their customers the same things in an email, their stores likely would not have seen anywhere near the online ordering adoption and revenue that they did.
Cannabis Video Best Practices
In addition to the same basic best practices that apply to digital cannabis ads across the board, video has a few unique things to keep in mind:
- Hook viewers in three seconds or less. Depending on the platform, viewers may skip the ad after watching just a few seconds of it. It’s your job to capture their attention before that happens.
- Fit your brand in early. Having noted the above, don’t miss the chance to fit your brand in somewhere (maybe even several times) before the end of the ad. If your logo is only onscreen for the last second, even consumers who watched most of your video may miss the connection.
- Don’t rely on audio. Viewers may mute your video, or take several seconds to unmute their computer audio at the beginning. While interviews and voiceovers can be great, use captions to reiterate the messaging—this will increase recall even if the viewer has the volume on the whole time.
5 Examples of CBD & Cannabis Video Ads
The following ad examples vary in style and quality, but they provide a reference point as to what some brands in the cannabis and CBD space are doing with video ads in 2020.
Cannabis Dispensary Showcase Ad
This 30-second dispensary spotlight uses a mix of video footage and static imagery to get its point across. Through brand colors and onscreen callouts, as well as logos and other branding shots throughout, Kolas created an effective dispensary showcase using assets already on hand.
CBD or Hemp Oil Product Ad
While this ad uses high-quality B-roll footage that seems directly associated with the brand, the entire ad could easily (and may well) have been created using stock footage. Fiverr is a great resource for smaller brands looking to create a video with stock footage on a budget.
National TV Cannabis Business Ad
This ad for a cannabis law firm was the first cannabis ad to run on several national television programs—including Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC—back in 2017. This particular ad carefully mirrors what consumers would expect of the same ad in any other industry, which can be a strength in some cases.
Cannabis Pre-Roll Product Ad
While this ad is somewhat cliché (and pokes fun at that fact), it was likely relatively quick and easy to film and edit. Brands unsure how to fill 30 seconds (or more) should reference simple ads that tell a story in a few shots, such as this one.
CBD Social Media Video Ad on Instagram
If you’re a CBD brand able to secure ad approval on social media, it’s great to have video creative on hand for use on Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms, where video ads are widely used and tend to convert well. One Facebook executive has even predicted that the platform one day could be all video and no text.
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