I had the unique opportunity to interview Darran Bruce, President of Cannadvertising, who’s mission is to inform his clients on the legality of advertising in the cannabis industry to ensure they are executing the best marketing campaign.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. You recently spoke at the MJBA panel discussion in Washington last week, what were some of the primary takeaways?
A: First off I would like to thank Dave and Morgan at the Marijuana Business Association, for inviting me to take part in such a wonderful event. The primary takeaway was education; educating not only the “Cannabusiness” community, but the public at large. There are many misconceptions surrounding the industry and only by educating the local governments and communities can we begin to change the way people think about cannabis.
Q: You carry the ‘fear torch’ when it comes to cannabis advertising, so what should we be afraid of?
A: Lol, The ‘fear torch’…I would say I carry the “correct information torch” that informs not only Cannabusinesses but also community leaders and the public. A person or company is allowed to exercise their rights under the First Amendment to advertise their business. The pitfall, however, is that many of these new entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry are going to face issues when they try to work with major companies like Google, Bing, GoDaddy, and Facebook, because of their terms and conditions that prevent “illegal activity” on their sites. They will continue to shut down any “illegal activity” without warning or recourse.
Q: Hosting providers can cancel service without warning?!
A: Yes this is 100% true. We have listed most of the major companies that have terms and conditions regarding illegal activity. You can find out more information by clicking this link. Methods of advertising that are allowed under the First Amendment are also listed on our site.
Q: You mention on your site that there are very few options available for safe advertising, so how is it that we’re still seeing cannabis ads on channels that are vehemently opposed to cannabis?
A: The reason why we are seeing cannabis ads, cannabis related websites, Facebook pages, etc. is because these businesses are “flying under the radar.” If someone were to report them, the company that is providing the hosting or service would investigate the issue and see if it fell under the guidelines of their terms and conditions. One of our mission statements at Cannadvertising is to “do the best we can to inform our clients about all possible scenarios, whether the information is positive or negative.”
Q: What if I link to websites that have to do with cannabis? Does that mean I’m promoting illegal activity? After all, we only sell products that could be used for cannabis.
A: That is an interesting question, one that I have not yet been able to answer conclusively because there seem to be shades of gray. What we have seen in the movie and music industry is a push to shut down websites that have links to copy written material that is infringing on the copyright. If a website has a link pointing to a site containing illegal activity, then logic stands that the website providing the link should also be prosecuted as well. One way the search engines rate a website is by “link backs.” These are links that point back to a website, so the more you have, the higher your ranking. This is part of a comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Page rank is another part of SEO. Search engines rate your website from one to ten based on a number of factors. If a website is found to be doing illegal activity, then the search engine can assign a negative page rank so that a website does not show up organically. Once this happens, it is almost impossible to reverse these effects. You might as well get a new domain and start over again. So if you are a legitimate website that is practicing legal activity, and you have links on your site pointing to a site with illegal activity, could your website be affected by this? For now, only Google and Bing can answer that.
Q: What’s your take on cannabis advertising over the next five years? How many of us do you think will still be standing after the storm clears?
A: Until cannabis becomes federally legal, about 85% of what a Cannabusiness can do to advertise won’t be allowed. I believe we are going to see some really creative concepts come out of this and I’m sure we’ll also see court cases. Take Colorado, for example. High Times Magazine and a local Colorado newspaper have already fought two First Amendment battles and High Times won the first case. My guess is that they will win the second as well. Those businesses that survive the first five years will have a sound marketing plan, team of seasoned advisors, an attorney, accountant, etc., and will practice within the guidelines of US law. The Small Business Administration states that 98% of businesses fail within the first two years for two reasons: lack of planning and a lack of working capital. I have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted because the owners thought they knew what they were doing without any sound plan. My advice to any entrepreneur is the seven P’s: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
You can learn more about Darran’s agency on his site: www.cannadvertising.com