By on May 12th, 2021

How to Get Your CBD Ads Approved on Facebook & Instagram in 2021

CBD Products Being Advertised on FacebookWe’ve got good news and bad news, so we’ll give you the good first: Yes, CBD brands can get their ads approved on Facebook and Instagram in 2021. The bad news? It requires some effort from your brand, and there’s still no way for approval to be fully guaranteed.

As we’ve detailed before, Facebook is notorious for rejecting many ad campaigns that comply with all their stated policies while sometimes also approving ad campaigns that don’t—the process is largely automated, and confusing for everyone involved (including for Facebook’s own moderators). Facebook also owns Instagram, so the policies for advertising on both platforms are one and the same.

Still, digital advertising on social media remains a valuable way for the CBD businesses that do secure ad approval to increase their brand recognition, drive product sales, or both. We recommend it to the majority of our CBD clients as a complement to a fully compliant programmatic ad campaign.

In this post, we’ll take a look at three options CBD brands have for getting their social ad campaigns approved; compare the pros and cons of each method; and provide our recommendation for how to decide which option is best for your brand. (If you’d prefer to see the same information overviewed in a single-page reference document, download our free 2021 Guide to CBD Ad Approval on Facebook & Instagram here.)

Related: The PrograMetrix Guide to CBD Ad Approval on Facebook & Instagram in 2021

Option 1: Segment Your Ecommerce Site to Focus on CBD Topicals

All three options on this list fall at different points between the poles of ensuring ad compliance and maximizing product sales. Our first option lands squarely in the middle of those two, delivering sales while ensuring that the ads in market are completely compliant with Facebook's officially stated CBD advertising policies.

The caveat, as noted above, is that Facebook doesn’t always abide by its own officially stated CBD advertising policies, and in many cases, ads for CBD topicals will initially be rejected automatically via bot. However, when the decision is appealed and falls to a human moderator, the campaigns are virtually always approved, and generally will not be flagged for removal thereafter. Again, there’s no guarantee, but this has been the case for our CBD clients to date.

While driving sales of CBD topicals alone does not allow for promotion of your entire product line (unless your brand already focuses exclusively on topicals)—and thus reduces the likely average order value for the campaign—it does at least deliver some sales. Below, we’ve laid out the process, pros, and cons for this method.

The process:

  1. Create a separate ecommerce site (for instance, via Shopify or WooCommerce) featuring just your topicals.
  2. Create topical-focused ads to drive traffic to your page, and submit the campaign for approval.
  3. If the ads are rejected automatically, request a review for manual approval.

The pros:

  • Fully compliant with Facebook policies, and generally avoids the risk of having your ads (or your page itself) flagged or removed.
  • The approach is proven to drive sales with minimal risk of ad removal, and has worked effectively for many brands.
  • In topical-focused campaigns, advertisers can use the word CBD when referencing the products advertised, because they are not referring to ingestible CBD. This allows for clear discussion of product benefits throughout the campaign.

The cons:

  • Narrowing your product focus decreases the likely average order value for your campaign and does not expose your audience to your full product range.
  • Segmenting your topicals will require the creation of a separate ecommerce site, which may necessitate some associated back-end setup (e.g. in your CRM) and/or web development costs.

One example of a brand successfully segmenting their topicals is Lord Jones, whose category-leading CBD beauty products are marketed widely and successfully via Facebook, Instagram, Google, and programmatic ads. Check out their compliant Instagram campaign landing page here.

Related: Report: Cannabis & CBD Digital Advertising Trends in 2020

Option 2: Create a Compliant Landing Page & Edit After Approval

The second option for CBD ad approval prioritizes sales over compliance, and is the riskiest option of the three outlined here. It involves creation of a compliant landing page for initial campaign approval, and then introduces links from that page through to your main website in order to drive increased sales across your entire product line and share your full brand story.

The main risk to be aware of is that Facebook’s bots may recrawl your campaign landing pages even after approval: If and when they do, your account will get flagged and the ads will come down. In other words, you’re simply rolling the dice in hoping that your ads will stay up for enough time to make the trouble worthwhile.

In general, Facebook has a two-strikes policy for advertising violations, and may not remove your entire Facebook or Instagram page the first time they take down the ads themselves. But Facebook plays by its own rules here too, and may choose to take down your entire Facebook or Instagram page on the first strike. In some cases going through the appeal process can reinstate the page, but not always.

If you've spent time building up your brand’s organic audience on Facebook or Instagram, this method is extremely risky, and one we do not recommend to most of our clients. For brands comfortable with risking their page on either platform and wishing to pursue this method, the process, benefits, and drawbacks are outlined below.

The process:

  1. Create a campaign landing page that’s compliant with Facebook’s advertising policies, and leave your CTA button(s) without a click-through URL.
  2. Create compliant ads and submit your campaign for initial approval from Facebook.
  3. If the ads are rejected automatically, request a review for manual approval.
  4. After receiving approval, wait 24 hours, then insert a click-through URL leading to your main website where shoppers can make purchases and find your full brand site.

The pros:

  • This method allows for the largest potential order value and exposes your customers to your full product line.
  • It is proven to drive product sales for as long as the ads remain approved.

The cons:

  • Your landing page could be recrawled by Facebook’s bots at any time, causing your ads to be flagged and removed.
  • Risks the loss of your Facebook or Instagram page and any organic audience associated with it.
  • You have no way of knowing how long approval may last, and cannot plan for optimization of your campaign strategy over time.

One brand that has doubled down on this strategy is Beam: The brand has used it multiple times, losing pages and creating new ones to launch new campaigns. This is not something we endorse, but it has been done by many other brands as well. Beam’s current landing page is available for reference here.

Related: 3 Ways CBD & Cannabis Advertisers Can Increase CTR

Option 3: Remove CBD Product References & Run a Brand-Focused Campaign

The third option prioritizes compliance over conversions, and is best for brands that want to avoid any trouble with Facebook and can afford a longer sales cycle. We particularly recommend it for companies with existing programmatic campaigns, email newsletters, or text marketing programs; these brands can drive top-of-funnel awareness on social media and then move those leads effectively through the funnel to conversion on channels other than Facebook or Instagram.

For this method, the landing page is kept informational (e.g. focusing on blog content such as “what's the difference between CBD and hemp,” or a CTA to sign up for a newsletter for “more information”). You would not be able to sell products or talk openly about the nature of your products, but a brand-focused campaign will drive increased awareness and grow a first-party data pool for remarketing, which can lead to product sales later on.

The process:

  1. Create a compliant landing page with no references to ingestible CBD products. We recommend including a CTA on the page for customers to sign up for more information, which allows for future remarketing.
  2. Create brand-focused ads to drive traffic to your page, and submit the campaign for approval.
  3. If the ads are rejected automatically, request a review for manual approval.

The pros:

  • Fully compliant with Facebook policies, and generally avoids the risk of having your ads (or your page itself) flagged or removed.
  • Can grow an audience or first-party data pool for more successful lower-funnel remarketing via programmatic ads, email, or text marketing.
  • Top-of-funnel campaigns are proven to increase brand awareness and recall.

The cons:

  • The fact that additional remarketing will be required to drive conversions will increase the average length of your sales cycle.
  • Content must be kept informational, and ingestible CBD cannot be referenced. (References to topical CBD or ingestible hemp are okay but may result in initial automatic campaign rejection.)
  • Brand-focused campaigns will not expose your product range to your target audience.

One brand currently running a branding-focused campaign on Facebook and Instagram is Synchronicity; their campaign landing page uses euphemisms for CBD, including “plant-based remedies,” to hint at the nature of their products, and includes a sign-up for a 10-day supply of product samples. The sign-up requires only a name and email, which allows Synchronicity to email the same customer thereafter with details on how to claim their sample products or purchase additional products directly from their website.

Related: Best Practices for CBD Ad Approval on Facebook & Google 

Which Ad Approval Method Is Best for My CBD Business?

All of the strategies outlined above require some effort from your brand, and as always, approval ultimately depends on Facebook and Facebook alone. However, all three of these strategies can offer increased sales, brand awareness, or both: The best option for you simply depends on your brand’s risk tolerance and business goals.

For brands willing to risk their Facebook or Instagram page in the name of driving more product sales, Option 2 is risky but has worked for many brands (some of whom have repeated this strategy several times). For brands who’d rather play it safe—and who have the runway to focus on top-of-funnel traffic now in the name of driving sales later—many have found Option 3 a worthwhile, low-risk social media marketing strategy. And for those brands who want to balance sales with safety, Option 1 is a great fit for CBD brands whose products lines include topicals.

In addition to any of these options, we strongly suggest that social advertising be used to complement a fully compliant programmatic ad campaign, which you can learn more about in our white paper on Digital Ads for Cannabis & CBD.

Ready to take the options in this post back to your team to make a decision? We’ve created a one-page reference guide overviewing all the information above in a handy bulleted list—you can download it here.

Related: The PrograMetrix Guide to CBD Ad Approval on Facebook & Instagram in 2021

Should CBD Brands Claim Their Domain on Facebook?

One final thing to note with the advent of iOS 14.5 is that Facebook now asks companies to claim the domain associated with their brand page, and requires a domain to be claimed prior to accepting any new ad campaigns from that brand.

While the exact repercussions of complying with this request for CBD brands are still unclear, we are currently suggesting that CBD brands wishing to advertise on Facebook in the future refrain from claiming their full domain for the time being, because we believe an association with a website selling ingestible CBD products could potentially prevent them from receiving ad approval in the future. We also believe claiming a domain that differs from the one you direct your campaign traffic to may result in the rejection of that campaign. However, this is not something anyone knows for sure yet, and may turn out not to be the case.

Related: White Paper: Digital Ads for Cannabis & CBD

Need help running compliant digital ad campaigns across Facebook, Instagram, Google, and programmatic channels? Get in touch here to see how our team can help you market your CBD brand.

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Brett Konen is the senior marketing manager at PrograMetrix.