Why Cannabis Brands Should Invest in Programmatic Advertising

With some of the most popular digital advertising platforms off limits to cannabis brands and businesses, programmatic advertising offers an affordable way to reach targeted audiences at scale. 

What is Programmatic Advertising?

In simplest terms, programmatic advertising automates the buying and selling of online advertising, but there is actually a lot more to it than that. First, programmatic advertising brings web publishers with ad space to sell and digital advertisers together. Rather than using numerous tools and processes to buy ad space through multiple channels in order to reach their target audiences, advertisers can automate the process using a single programmatic platform. 

Second, programmatic advertising streamlines the ad buying process. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, programmatic platforms buy the right ad placements at the right times and for the best price through an auction system. 

Third, programmatic advertising optimizes advertising budgets. Again, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, programmatic platforms bid on ad space in real-time, and advertisers get the most effective placements and prices. Instead of a team of marketers managing the process, everything is automated.

The automated process includes numerous steps, but everything happens instantly. Here’s a basic breakdown of the process that happens behind the scenes to display a programmatic ad on a website:

  • A person lands on a publisher’s web page.
  • The publisher’s ad space (i.e., the impression) is put up for auction through the programmatic network.
  • Advertisers bid for the ad space (i.e., the impression). This is done automatically through algorithms and data so each advertiser’s bid is the most cost-effective for them.
  • The highest bidder wins the space.
  • The ad is served on the website where the original visitor can see it.
  • The visitor clicks on the ad. At least, that’s what the advertiser and publisher hope.

When the visitor clicks on the ad, the advertiser has a chance to convert them into a customer and the publisher earns ad revenue. Remember, all of this happens faster than you can blink. 

What are Programmatic Advertising Channels

There are several programmatic advertising channels that advertisers can use to show their ads. Each channel gives you an opportunity to reach your target audience where they already spend time. 

Display Ads

Digital display ads are image or banner ads like those people see on websites, social media platforms, search engine results pages, and more. Display ads are the most popular programmatic ad channel today.

Native Ads

Native ads are created to look like they’re part of the web page where they’re placed. They can include images, text, and call-to-action buttons. They’re commonly found at the top of web pages, at the bottom of articles or blog posts, and other places where they blend in with the page’s content. 

Mobile Ads

Mobile ads are highly effective when it comes to targeting people based on their current locations through geofencing. Advertisers can also target in creative ways, such as by apps people have downloaded. This includes cannabis-related apps (e.g., Eaze or Weedmaps).

Digital Audio Ads

Digital audio ads are expected to become more common in the future as digital audio streaming continues to grow in popularity. Advertisers like audio ads because their ad is the only one playing when a listener hears it. That means there is no competition for audience attention.

Connected TV Ads

Since connected TV ads aren’t regulated in the same ways that broadcast TV ads are, they represent a unique opportunity for cannabis brands. Like digital audio ads, connected TV ads are shown to highly engaged audiences with no other distractions. 

Digital out of Home (DOOH) Ads

Digital billboards are just one example of how programmatic advertising has moved out of homes and off of personal devices into consumers’ environments. This is a growing programmatic advertising channel that is likely to become more popular in the future.

How Cannabis Brands Can Benefit from Programmatic Advertising

Cannabis and ancillary businesses can leverage programmatic advertising to grow their brands and increase sales to just about any target audience. Some of the top benefits of programmatic advertising include:

Advanced Targeting

Programmatic advertising offers superior targeting capabilities so you can find your niche audience where they spend time. Targeting by device, real-time location, demographics, interests, and behaviors are just some of the ways you can find the exact audience you want to connect with your brand.

Expanded Reach

Using tools provided by programmatic advertising platforms, you can find diverse ways to advertise and get in front of new audiences in a methodical, strategic way. The advanced algorithms built into some of these platforms also help you find lookalike audiences to expand your reach even further. 

Increased Efficiencies of Ad Management

Since all of your ad buying, tracking, targeting, and other management activities are consolidated in a single programmatic advertising platform, you’ll save time on all of the tasks associated with strategizing, implementing, and tracking your advertising plan.

Improved Tracking

With programmatic advertising, you can go beyond click-thru rate to get a better understanding of who engages with your ads. This advanced data can help you develop effective retargeting campaigns, A/B split tests, and more. You can also connect the data from your programmatic ads to data from your website and social media accounts to learn more about prospects’ journeys.

More Effective Budget and Results Optimization

The algorithms used to place programmatic ad bids leverage deep analytics to spend your ad budget as effectively as possible. You’ll access the best ad placements for your budget, which should deliver the highest return on your investments. 

How to Get Started with Programmatic Advertising

There are many websites that allow cannabis and cannabis-related businesses to place ads, but finding them can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a number of platforms and tools that do allow cannabis brands and some that only work with cannabis brands. Following are popular platforms to get started:


Mantis is a cannabis ad network offering programmatic advertising for both cannabis and CBD brands. It boasts a large list of publishers, including cannabis sites like Leafly, Marijuana Business Daily, MedicalJane, WikiLeaf, and Grasscity Forums, as well as mainstream sites like The Food Network, HGTV, and the Travel Channel.

Traffic Roots

Traffic Roots is a programmatic marketplace for cannabis brands offering programmatic placements for display, pre-roll and post-roll video, mobile, and banner ads Traffic Roots has more than 160,000 mainstream publishers in its network as well as many cannabis-specific sites. Traffic Roots received funding from Canopy Boulder and is well-known in the industry.

Key Takeaways about Programmatic Advertising for Cannabis Brands

Programmatic advertising is a viable option for cannabis and cannabis-related businesses. There are several mainstream programmatic ad networks that place cannabis industry ads as well as several cannabis industry-specific programmatic ad networks. 

Already, publishers like Newsweek, USA Today, and ESPN allow cannabis-related programmatic ad buys on their digital properties, and more mainstream publishers are joining the list all the time. Now is the time for cannabis brands to start investing in programmatic ads.

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