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Tunnl | Products | Audiences

How to Reach Your Cannabis Campaign Audience

April 14th, 2023 | 7 min. read

Amanda Peterson Beadle

Amanda joined Tunnl in April 2022 and currently serves as the VP, Audiences & Analytics.

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The cannabis market is getting crowded, and ad space is particularly saturated during the month of April. And it's no surprise why: Recreational marijuana is legal in 21 states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C. It’s entirely legal for medical use in 38 states, with a few more locations allowing CBD oil. And the U.S. marijuana industry is valued at $13.2 billion. 

The tides are changing, and Tunnl’s keeping tabs on how individuals feel about marijuana. With several surveys that poll thousands of voters and consumers, we maintain billions of rows of data on pressing issues that are always up-to-date to inform our prebuilt audiences and Premier Audience Suite.

And we have three marijuana audiences to help you cut through the competition and connect with your audience instead of burning your ad dollars. 

Top 3 Tunnl Audiences for Cannabis Campaigns

1. Anti Recreational Marijuana Legalization

“Individuals who oppose legalizing recreational marijuana for use by adults 18 and older”

This audience is full of people who are not fans of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. They could be your best allies if your campaigns land on the same side of the law or serve as a handy exclusionary audience if you’re on the other side of the issue. 

How to use the Anti Recreational Marijuana Legalization audience:

  • As a stand-in for people who do not use marijuana
  • To inform voters about changes in legislation and how they can get involved 
  • As a building block in creating a target audience of sober individuals
  • For educational campaigns to gain your dispensary community's opt-in


2. Pro Recreational Marijuana Legalization

“Individuals who support legalizing recreational marijuana for use by adults 18 and older”

blog-3bThis audience supports the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 18 and older and is open to receiving your marijuana-positive messaging. Whether you’re hoping to progress a positive legislative stance to states that haven’t legalized weed yet, or you’re a marijuana dispensary, this audience is an ideal prebuilt to put your ads in front of the right people.

How to use the Pro Recreational Marijuana Legalization audience:

  • As a stand-in for people who use marijuana recreationally
  • To promote recreational marijuana businesses, products, or events
  • For campaigns publicizing new marijuana legislation

3. Recreational Marijuana Legalization Persuadables

“Individuals who are receptive to messages both for and against legalizing recreational marijuana for use by adults 18 and older”

This group lands somewhere in between. They are on the fence about recreational marijuana legalization and are open to seeing messages on either side of the issue. They may have mixed feelings on the subject like they support recreational marijuana legalization but worry that formalizing legalization will come with unfavorable taxes or regulations. 

If that sounds like your target population, use this audience to:

  • Influence decision-makers for or against recreational marijuana legalization
  • Inform undecided voters about recreational marijuana legislation in their area
  • Get in on the ground floor with people who are not polarized on marijuana and substance-related topics

Watch How to Access and Analyze These Audiences in the Tunnl Platform


An Example of a Successful Cannabis Campaign

Creating and using an audience based on sentiment toward marijuana may be tricky, but it has certainly been done before. Dispensaries, politicians, and purpose-driven brands have seen success when targeting this group. And their campaigns can have a significant impact.

Look at big brands like Ben & Jerry’s. In a joint effort with the American Civil Liberties Union, Ben & Jerry’s launched a powerful 4/20 cause-based campaign. The ice cream company infused its munchie messaging with a heaping scoop of systemic racism awareness and a call for criminal justice reform around marijuana arrests, saying it’s “high time for change.” 

The campaign brought awareness to the highly-relevant issue of racial injustice and the discrepancies between who runs marijuana-based businesses vs. who disproportionately gets arrested for marijuana possession. And it did double duty: The campaign illuminated a cause critical to the Ben & Jerry’s brand while endearing customers to the freezer-section staple on a moral and ethical level. 

So, yes. You can - and should - target marijuana users with ads if they align with your organization’s messaging. But you may need to tread carefully as you identify your target audience and plan your campaign due to platform restrictions and local legality. 


Which Ad Platforms Allow Cannabis Advertising?

Popular digital ad platforms, including Facebook and Google, are strict about ads promoting cannabis products like marijuana, CBD, delta-8, or hemp. Pinterest will let you get away with ads for CBD-only or hemp products, as long as there’s no THC involved. While some advertisers have found creative ways to appease platform guidelines and get their message in front of customers and constituents, it can take some work. 

You still have options, however. Twitter recently announced that they would allow licensed businesses to run cannabis ads, provided the ads are being delivered only to adults over 21 in states where cannabis is legal. The House also passed a bill allowing weed ads on TV and radio under similar circumstances (i.e., where cannabis is legal).

Tunnl Tip: To get your cannabis ads created and distributed, demand-side platforms (DSPs) like our partners at Basis can automate away some of your stress - especially when paired with curated Tunnl audiences. DSPs allow you to place and manage ads across multiple platforms from one central interface.

blog-2But what about legislative advertising? Different rules govern your campaigns if no products are involved and you advertise a ballot initiative or social issue. On Meta, for instance, you need to complete an authorization process before you run any social issue, legislative, or political ads - and you’ll face targeting restrictions - but then you’re all set to get the word out about what’s up for a vote. 

When you’re worrying about where to advertise, consider geography as well. Because marijuana is still considered a controlled substance and illegal on a federal level, a national campaign for cannabis products may be out of the question. Local targeting will be your best - and safest - advertising option for cannabis campaigns. 


How to Start Reaching Your Cannabis Audience

Tailoring an ad campaign to the people in your audience who are interested in the marijuana legalization conversation could land you some serious support, à la Ben & Jerry’s “high time for change” campaign. But you must be careful not to isolate anybody who isn’t on board in your audience. Thankfully, the hard part of identifying who lands in each camp has already been done for you.

The Audience Builder in Tunnl's platfrom is an excellent place to start for analyzing these audiences and layering them with other issue-based audiences to create a unique cannabis target for your campaigns in minutes. With our Audience Builder, add demographic parameters, hone in on certain geographic radiuses around dispensaries or other relevant locations, and start reaching precise segments fast.

Alternatively, the U.S. Policy Opinion Makers puts you in direct contact with decision-makers driving cannabis policy legislation throughout the nation and maybe a more direct route to achieving your goals.