Canadians are increasingly spending more and more time on mobile devices and platforms, making it important for marketers to understand the most effective ways to run cannabis advertising on digital devices.

With COVID-19 driving many cannabis users away from recently established bricks-and-mortar stores and more towards mCommerce, brands need to capitalize on the mobile usage trends and target cannabis customers where they are spending the majority of their digital time. Mobile ads can help drive new audiences to a website and track engagements, while improving brand awareness and consideration.

In 2019, mobile accounted for an estimated 70% of online advertising revenue in Canada, however there are nuances that exist when targeting audiences programmatically. For example, if you are looking run cannabis advertising on mobile devices, there are two environments where audiences spend the most time – in-app and on the mobile web. Advertisers can activate ‘app-based’ or ‘web-based’ targeting methods to reach specific audiences based on their needs and desired media outcomes. In terms of time spent, the average audience spends 13.8 hours on mobile web sites per month, compared to 95.2 hours within mobile apps per month.

Buying cannabis audiences

Mobile web and mobile app work differently, especially when it comes to data collection. For instance, between the two, mobile apps with SDK integration tend to have higher accuracy on location and demographics, thus more accurate reporting on attribution.

Mobile web when purchased programmatically, is largely driven by data that is currently delivered via cookies. This approach might provide a limited perspective on important audience attributes like frequency of exposure to ads and carry-over behaviors from one platform to another.

When buying in-app audiences programmatically, the buyer is depending on unique device identifiers as opposed to cookies. Apps offer strong targeting capabilities, as they have access to anonymized demographic and location data. By virtue of downloading the app, the user is more readily providing specific, actionable data and more detailed analytics.

Main vendors facilitating cannabis advertising programmatically include: MiQ Digital, StackAdapt, and Adobe.

Creative best practices for cannabis advertising on mobile devices

Fundamental best practices when advertising on mobile devices can be described by the IAB Canada as the “5Ps of mobile engagement”:


• Understanding of channels and content the target audience is accessing so the message can be pushed out at the right moment.


• The need to be compelling and personal, e.g. by being location-specific.


• Tailored for the small screen, leveraging native features and device functionality.


• Shareable content is more likely to gain attention.


• Fast, flawless delivery and easy, intuitive interaction.

[Referenced from the IAB Canada Mobile Committee Industry Paper ‘The Anatomy of Mobile Advertising’, published: September 1, 2020]