You want to know what the Next Big Thing is going to be in advertising? Follow the money. Right now, tons of money is flowing to the cannabis industry — and marketing dollars are right behind. The majority of states now allow pot for recreational or medical usage, with initiatives on the ballot or in the legislature for several other states to join them.

So just how big does legalized weed have the potential to become? Mind-bogglingly large. One recent report even had annual sales of marijuana rising to $130 billion worldwide1 within a few years. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the soda industry and rivaling alcohol.

Even if cannabis sales don’t reach quite those heights, more conservative estimates still put it at $50 billion to $75 billion2 within the next decade, with a crazy compound annual growth rate of almost 27 percent3.

Big business is competitive business, and that means advertising will ramp up quickly to grab a greater share of this growing industry. We’ve compiled 60 fascinating cannabis marketing stats to underscore that potential. (How do you know there are 60? Look at the superscripts.)

Cannabis Marketing Growth: How Big Is It, How Big Will It Be?

DASH TWO tracks data related to pot advertising, and we’ve come up with some pretty telling numbers. Here’s a breakdown of total dollars across B-to-B spending, TV, print, internet, radio and outdoor over the past two years and year-to-date this year:

  • 2017: $925 million4
  • 2018: 1.133 billion5
  • 2019: $2.26 billion (projected)6

Spending will double this year, we believe, and it will get even bigger as we iron out the legalities of cannabis advertising — the fact that it’s still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government means advertising in certain municipalities and states faces intense scrutiny.

Advertising probably won’t double every year. But it will grow very quickly, especially as legal hurdles relax. This happens with most innovations. For instance, when digital billboards first came out more than a decade ago, many advertisers were reticent to get on board, worrying about the safety of this new ad format.

But things changed quickly. Digital out of home now represents nearly a third of total OOH spending, with more than half of Americans saying they’ve seen a digital billboard in the past month.

Takeaway: It doesn’t take long for advertising to grow with demand.

What Advertising Formats Are Most Popular for Weed?

It’s not just a matter of how big the dollars will get—it’s also a matter of where they go. Where do marketers think they have the best chance of reaching potential buyers? Who do they see as their most likely customers? These perceptions will guide investment as the years go on.

Here out of home has a big advantage, because unlike several other media, it has fewer restrictions. Facebook and Google, for instance, the two biggest digital media advertising platforms, don’t accept cannabis advertising. You can still find digital opportunities with workarounds like event advertising, but that’s a pretty significant loss.

Here’s how the categories of media break down, according to our numbers (all 2019 figures are projections).

Out of Home Cannabis Advertising

Total:

  • 2017: $50.13 million7
  • 2018: $59.956 million8
  • 2019: $110.265 million9

Takeaway: With fewer regulatory hurdles, outdoor stands to benefit from this form of advertising. It saw amazing growth from 2018 to 2019, and you can expect it to rise even faster in 2020 and beyond.

Cannabis Advertising in Newspapers

Hispanic newspapers:

  • 2017: $2.33 million10
  • 2018: $1.90 million11
  • 2019: $4.85 million12

National newspapers:

  • 2017: $1.748 million13
  • 2018: $5.531 million14
  • 2019: $12.405 million15

Total newspapers:

  • 2017: $262.953 million16
  • 2018: $324.838 million17
  • 2019: $719.435 million18

Takeaway: A lot of dispensaries and other businesses are interested in targeting Hispanics, and while newspapers may be losing money in other advertising categories, marijuana could provide a nice salve to those wounds. Alternative papers especially can benefit from this new income category. Overall, newspapers have the largest investment in cannabis advertising.

B-to-B Cannabis Advertising

Total:

  • 2017: $7.727 million19
  • 2018: $7.403 million20
  • 2019: $15.129 million21

Takeaway: As dispensaries and other weed-related business become more established, they will have more need for B-to-B spending.

Cable TV Cannabis Advertising

Total:

  • 2017: $ 101.82 million22
  • 2018: $88.426 million23
  • 2019: $190.246 million24

Takeaway: Cable offers a way to reach a niche audience, and that’s what weed remains, despite its growth. Still, spending in this category won’t grow as quickly as for other media, which also reflects streaming’s impact on cable viewership and overall reach.

Cannabis Advertising in Magazines

Hispanic magazines:

  • 2017: $445,00025
  • 2018: $14,00026
  • 2019: $459,00027

Local magazines:

  • 2017: $2.454 million28
  • 2018: $3.146 million29
  • 2019: $6.568 million30

Total magazines:

  • 2017: $52.783 million31
  • 2018: $44.942 million32
  • 2019: $126.849 million33

Sunday magazines:

  • 2017: $1.287 million34
  • 2018: $3.03 million35
  • 2019: $4.676 million36

Takeaway: Like newspapers, magazine advertising has been on the decline for years, and so the medium may eagerly embrace any opportunity to increase spending. Local magazines could provide a better fit as often their distribution is contained to a small area within a state, which negates concerns about the cross-border legality of marijuana in different states.

Cannabis Internet Display Advertising

Total:

  • 2017: $131.94 million37
  • 2018: $238.335 million38
  • 2019: $370.274 million39

Takeaway: There’s huge potential here — besides newspapers, internet is the biggest category of ad spending for cannabis companies.

Cannabis Radio Advertising

Local:

  • 2017: $60.172 million40
  • 2018: $74.057 million41
  • 2019: $160.149 million42

National spot:

  • 2017: $60.129 million43
  • 2018: $96.274 million44
  • 2019: $156.403 million45

Network:

  • 2017: $13.577 million46
  • 2018: $19.191 million47
  • 2019: $40.098 million48

Takeaway: Airwaves are more tightly regulated than outdoor or internet advertising — and so it may take longer for this category to ramp up to its full potential. Expect legal challenges that could pave the way for more widespread advertising.

TV Cannabis Advertising

SLN TV:

  • 2017: $5.492 million49
  • 2018: $2.388 million50
  • 2019: $7.88 million51

Spot TV:

  • 2017: $105.982 million52
  • 2018: $107.717 million53
  • 2019: $213.611 million54

Syndication:

  • 2017: $20.03 million55
  • 2018: $18.895 million56
  • 2019: $39.957 million57

Network TV:

  • 2017: $44.124 million58
  • 2018: $37.402 million59
  • 2019: $81.606 million60

Takeaway: Like radio, TV faces a lot of challenges with nationally available programming. While it has potential, its greater growth is likely well down the road.

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