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Most CBD business owners, especially in the start-up phase, get their websites up, ensure they have stock of their products, and then start looking for ways to promote their brand. Unsurprisingly, Google Ads is usually top of their list.

Google is the most prominent digital ad seller through its Google Ads platform. Last year alone, they sold over $100 billion in ads, accounting for 31% of ad spending worldwide. That’s over a third more than its closest competitor, Facebook Ads, at $67 billion.

Google ads remain popular because they work. They target a buyer who has shown specific interest in a topic, and you can reach that buyer when they want to make a purchasing decision. But unfortunately for CBD businesses, the digital advertising platform prohibits the direct promotion of cannabidiol products.

What is Google’s standpoint on CBD?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s refresh Google’s CBD stance quickly. It’s important to understand that Google search prohibits the advertising of CBD on its platform. Like many other US-based companies (including Amazon and Facebook), Google’s advertising policy clearly states that promoting CBD is prohibited, whether or not it is legal.

While hemp-derived CBD is legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, there is still the need for a regulatory framework to be developed, and it hasn’t yet been established in all states. A consequence of this is because Google is registered in the States, it can’t allow the sale of CBD.

CBD is explicitly mentioned in Google’s list of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements. That’s pretty clear. But if you type CBD into google.co.uk, you still many ads promoting CBD (albeit indirectly). So, what is going on?

What is the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil, and how do companies use that to their advantage?

CBD oil is made from the stalk and leaves of the hemp plant, where cannabidiol is found. In contrast, hemp oil (or hemp seed oil) is made from only hemp seeds and contains little to no CBD and, therefore, doesn’t offer the same benefits as hemp-derived CBD oil.

This is important because CBD oil and hemp seed oil are in the same cannabis family and are, therefore, often promoted as the same thing, even though they’re entirely different.

But why would a brand do this? It’s one of the main ways companies try to get around Google’s CBD ban. The ad copy would only reference hemp oil, while the keyword the company is targeting would be CBD-related. It’s counterintuitive as CBD has a much higher price point, but their thinking is that if they can get the user to click through to their site, they have a good chance of getting the sale.

What are the CBD Advertising Laws for the USA?

CBD advertising laws are important to understand if you are considering starting a CBD company. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is told clearly what is allowed and not allowed in CBD advertising. Each state also has advertising regulations and business licenses. For instance, if you want to operate in Florida, you will need a CBD business license.

According to the FTC, “Companies that represent expressly or by implication that what they sell can prevent, treat, or cure serious medical conditions in an ad will be held to the highest substantiation standards, and marketers can expect scrutiny of those claims.”

The FTC also prohibits making claims about CBD products concerning prevention, treatment, and safety in an ad unless the CBD products have been through human clinical testing to prove the claims. Additionally, there are different requirements for retailers and wholesalers regarding CBD advertising. Retailers can make general claims about the benefits of CBD, but they cannot make specific health claims.

On the other hand, Wholesalers can make specific health claims as long as they have substantiation from third-party scientific studies. It is essential to consult with an experienced attorney before starting any CBD company to ensure that you comply with all applicable laws.

Think again if you were thinking about getting around the CBD advertising laws. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has formed Operation CBDeceit to crack down on any deceptive advertising of CBD products – online or offline. So far, five CBD companies have faced the consequences of their ads. These CBD companies are:

  • Bionatrol Health LLC
  • CBD Meds Inc.
  • Epichouse LLC (First Class Herbalist CBD)
  • HempmeCBD
  • Steves Distributing LLC

So before running CBD ads on google Adwords think about it again. Your AdWords account might be banned, or you can face legal action by FTC. So better to don’t run any CBD google ads on Google.

CBD Advertising Laws for UK

The MHRA is the executive agency of the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care responsible for products classed as CBD sold in the UK. It also issues guidelines on what can and cannot be said when advertising medicine or healthcare products.

So, you want to start selling CBD products in the UK? Here are the MHRA guidelines you need to follow:

  • Follow the UK’s basic advertising guidelines for CBD products as set out by the MHRA. This includes not making unapproved health claims or wellbeing claims and not linking to sites/platforms that promote ‘cancer cures’ or other medicinal biased information.
  • Make sure that any written content and published articles about your CBD products do not make any medical claims. This includes company names/logos, hashtags, links, and any shared testimonials/reviews.
  • Do not offer CBD products to treat any specific condition – stick to general descriptions such as “relaxing,” “energising” and so on.
  • Make sure you do not link to any sites/platforms that present CBD as a medicine. This includes explicitly medical sites and platforms where customers can obtain more information about CBD and its uses.
  • Make no explicit medical claims about your CBD products.
  • Do not link to sites/platforms that promote ‘cancer cures’ or other medicinally biased sites/platforms.
  • Do not publish articles that imply that CBD can or has been used to treat any illness.
  • Do not suggest customers talk to any medical professional.
  • Do not use any graphics, imagery, or product names that imply CBD is a medicine.
  • Do not make comparisons with licensed medicines.
  • Do not reference medical and clinical research and testing.

So, what are the things that CBD merchants ARE allowed to do ( UK )?

They can claim to maintain, help, or support health, healthy bodily functions, or organs. However, references to restoring or aiding in restoring a specific biological function or organ to a normal, healthy state are prohibited.

How are companies getting around Google’s CBD ban?

There are two main ways that companies try to get around Google’s ban on CBD:

Option 1 – Advertise CBD products directly

This approach usually has a two-day shelf life. A CBD company will set up standard search ads and drive visitors to a CBD product page on its website. The campaign will usually only run for a day or two before Google gets around to crawling your landing page and the rest of your website, and the result is that your ads will be disapproved. In most cases, a search ad campaign like this will get shut down within two weeks, but it’s usually a few days. The best-case scenario is that your ads will be disapproved; the worst case is a permanent suspension of your account. Google may even go so far as to flag your website or billing details, making it nearly impossible to create a new account.

Option 2 – Get creative and promote your CBD product indirectly

Setting up a new Adwords account every two weeks is not a practical solution which is why this alternative is the most commonly used. The method still operates in a grey area, so creating a new Google Ads account specifically for CBD advertising is best. This is to protect you if you sell other products through Adwords as you still risk having your account flagged.

Set up a campaign as you usually would input your budget and location, and set the campaign type to “Paid Search Ads.” Keyword selection, as always, is important, and should include terms such as “CBD” and “hemp.”

Then it’s time to get creative. When you’re writing the ad copy, you have to avoid promoting the product directly and instead use terms that hint at the products you sell. This might include terms such as “hemp oil.” The link visitors click on once they’ve seen your ad should take them to a landing page on your website that promotes your CBD product but does so indirectly.

What are the risks of promoting your CBD products on Google Ads?

There are a myriad of risks that you expose yourself to if you decide to try and circumvent Google’s Adwords policies, not least account closure, misleading clients, and potential damage to your brand.

Account Closures

Even if you are only referencing hemp in the ad copy and sending visitors to a hemp oil product page, you are still at risk of having your account shut down. There are many instances where a company advertising a completely legal, non-CBD product has been shut down because the site sells other CBD products.

Misleading Clients

It’s also not ideal from an ethical standpoint. If you are targeting the keyword “CBD” and advertising hemp oil in the Adwords copy, you are misleading the customer to click on the website.

Damage to Your Brand

Most reputable, well-established CBD companies avoid using Adwords, respecting Google’s decision to exclude CBD from their list of allowed supplements. Instead, they focus on other online channels to market their products and educate consumers about CBD. This means that you have a decision to make, do you want to sell your product using Google Ads and risk increasing the stigma that is already associated with CBD while at the same time potentially damaging your brand? Or do you want to take a more long-term view and put effort into building your digital assets to educate consumers and build customer loyalty?

Is It Possible to Advertise CBD on Popular Mainstream Websites?

Limitations of CBD Online Promotion

Google Ads CBD

There are a lot of products on the market that contain CBD, and many people use it for various purposes. However, unfortunately for marketers, Google ad does not allow CBD to be advertised on its platform. This is because Cannabidiol is derived from hemp, which is a type of Cannabis plant. Although CBD is not psychoactive, it is still considered part of the Cannabis family. According to google ads policies, it has a strict policy against promoting any products associated with this plant.

As a result, in the UK, CBD advertisers who want to promote CBD products will need to find other platforms to do so. This may limit the reach of their advertising campaigns, but it is still possible to connect with potential customers through other channels. For a better understanding, check out these Google ads policies.

Facebook and Instagram

Facebook & Instagram has banned all ads for CBD products, except organic content and posts. That means you can post links to your website or store page to advertise this product on Facebook, but they will be rejected if Facebook (Uk region ) deems it as advertising marijuana which it doesn’t allow anyway, even though hemp contains zero percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). If a CBD ad leads people to a website where CBD is for sale, Facebook will look into the domain and remove it from rotation. For a better understanding, check out these Facebook ads policies.

Twitter

CBD advertising on Twitter is now allowed in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada after a recent change in their policy. This follows the trend of other social media platforms, which have also relaxed their rules regarding CBD advertising.

However, Twitter’s rules are still stricter than most, as they ban all promotion of illegal drugs, recreational and herbal drugs, accessories associated with drug use, and dispensaries. This means businesses who want to advertise CBD products on Twitter must be very careful to ensure that their ads comply with the guidelines. But for those who are willing to work within the restrictions, Twitter can be an effective way to reach a broad audience with their CBD message. For a better understanding, check out these Twitter ads policies.

FAQ

Can I run Google ads for CBD products?

No, you cannot run Google ads for CBD products. Can you advertise hemp on Google ads?

Google Ads does not allow the promotion of hemp products at this time. However, there are some restrictions on what can be included in the ad. For example, the ad cannot contain any images or text that promotes the use of hemp for recreational purposes.

Can you advertise hemp on Google ads?

Google Ads does not allow the promotion of hemp products at this time. However, there are some restrictions on what can be included in the ad. For example, the ad cannot contain any images or text that promotes the use of hemp for recreational purposes.

Is it legal to advertise CBD products?

Yes, it is legal to advertise CBD products as long as they comply with the relevant laws and regulations. CBD products must not make any medical claims without appropriate supporting evidence. They should also be marketed responsibly, ensuring that people understand the difference between CBD and THC. If CBD products are advertised as dietary supplements, then there is likely no issue with advertising them. However, if CBD products are being promoted as a treatment for a medical condition, then it is likely that doing so would be illegal without prior approval from the FDA.

What do we think?

Having worked with CBD clients operating in the UK for the past three years, we’ve seen many Adwords accounts being shut down, and it’s not worth the risk. In some cases, Google goes as far as to ban the billing method used, making it difficult to open another account.

Many CBD brands would argue that it is possible to advertise CBD on Google without going against their ad policy. To do this, they rely on ‘creative wording’ to find a way to promote CBD products on the platform. In this way, they would say that you can avoid the risk of violating Adwords terms and conditions entirely.

From our perspective, it also strays into the grey moral territory. And in an industry still struggling to shrug off the associations with marijuana and a ‘stoner’ culture, this is yet another way that companies are bringing CBD companies into disrepute.

It’s hugely tempting to go ahead with Google Ads to promote your CBD products, especially when you see many other CBD companies benefiting from the loophole that allows them to promote CBD indirectly. We do not believe this is a sustainable model and will always advise clients to pursue other above-board methods for promoting their products.

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