Spotify just became the first audio streaming service to agree to run cannabis-related advertisements on its digital ad platform.
Cresco Labs, a Chicago-based multistate cannabis operator, recently announced that Spotify has agreed to start airing ads for its dispensary chain, Sunnyside. Cresco operates around 70 Sunnyside locations in 7 states, but the ad campaign will focus on the company’s home state of Illinois. Spotify will air 30 second audio ads for Sunnyside dispensaries on its ad-supported free service, alongside in-app digital banners that directly link to Cresco’s e-commerce platform.
Spotify has recently come under fire for paying artists much less than competing services, but that hasn’t stopped them from becoming the most popular audio streaming subscription service. According to Cresco’s press release, the company currently has over 551 million users and 220 million subscribers. The Sunnyside campaign won’t reach all those global listeners, though, as it will specifically be targeted to people living in Illinois, where adult-use cannabis is legal.
“Audio streaming services represent a major opportunity for brands to reach large audiences in a targeted manner, and we’re excited to collaborate with Spotify to launch the first-ever cannabis ads from our Sunnyside national retail brand,” said Cory Rothschild, Cresco Labs’ National Retail President, in a press release. “Spotify’s platform will enable our marketing team to target our ads compliantly and profitably to our core shoppers in Illinois where we have a leading share in retail.”
Rothschild also pointed out that this “important partnership is… a step in normalizing cannabis.” That normalization is much-needed, as most major digital platforms still ban any and all cannabis content. Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is notorious for suspending, deleting, and “shadow banning” accounts that have anything to do with weed. The social media giant even shuts down cannabis content from Canada, where adult-use cannabis is completely legal. Most other online megacorps, including Google, YouTube, and TikTok, enforce excessively strict cannabis ad policies too.
Spotify has joined a smaller number of major corporations that are bucking that trend, though. In 2021, Apple acknowledged the ubiquity of legal cannabis by allowing legal weed companies to distribute delivery apps on its mobile app store. Earlier this year, Twitter (now rebranded as X) overturned its longstanding anti-weed ad policies and began allowing legal cannabis businesses to launch limited ads that share informational content about cannabis. Tumblr also started accepting cannabis and CBD ads in 2021, and gaming streamer Twitch stopped censoring pot-related usernames the following year.
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