Cannabis Brands Hovering on the Runway: The Anticipated Green Light for Airport Advertising

date_rangeJune 23, 2023

Airport Advertising

Despite the rapid growth and mainstream acceptance of the cannabis industry over recent years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s regulations have grounded the ambitions of cannabis brands hoping to advertise in airports. As airports are under federal jurisdiction and cannabis remains federally illegal, the prospect of cannabis advertising at airports remains largely a pipe dream. However, with the societal and legal landscapes around cannabis usage changing rapidly, brands are hopeful that they will soon be able to use airport advertising to reach their target demographics.

The Allure of Airports: A Strategic Advertising Hub

Airports represent a unique advertising opportunity for any industry, including cannabis. They are a hub of activity, hosting an eclectic mix of business and leisure travelers from different age groups, income levels, and cultural backgrounds. The average dwell time in airports - the time spent from passing through security to boarding the flight - is usually long, meaning potential consumers have time to absorb and engage with advertisements. This, coupled with the fact that airports and traveling often symbolize freedom and relaxation, makes airport advertising a tantalizing prospect for cannabis brands.

Aligning Demographics: Cannabis Consumers and Frequent Travelers

To understand the potential impact of airport advertising for cannabis brands, consider the demographics of the typical cannabis consumer. According to a study by BDS Analytics, cannabis consumers are more likely to have a full-time job, are more social, and are more likely to engage in outdoor activities. This aligns closely with the profile of frequent travelers, who also tend to be active, engaged, and high-earning individuals. Therefore, the ability to advertise in airports could allow cannabis brands to directly target a core demographic, and at scale.

Normalizing Cannabis: The Potential Impact of Airport Advertising

Beyond the opportunity to engage directly with their target demographic, airports could provide cannabis brands with a chance to normalize their products and establish them as mainstream consumer goods. Advertising in such a prominent and heavily trafficked public space could help de-stigmatize cannabis and encourage acceptance of cannabis products among broader consumer groups.

Real Attempts in an Unrealized Market: Cannabis Brands and Airport Advertising

Despite the restrictions, cannabis brands are eager to step into the airport advertising space, and many have already made attempts, albeit indirectly. For instance, EAM has been approached repeatedly, tasked with building media plans and campaigns for cannabis brands across airports nationwide. Despite ongoing discussions with major concession owners like JCDecaux and Clear Channel Airports, cannabis advertising remains off-limits due to federal restrictions. In another instance, back in 2019, cannabis brand Ignite International ran an ad campaign on billboards surrounding LAX airport. The billboards featured provocative images and were not product-specific, but they were unmistakably associated with the Ignite brand. While not within the airport, the placement of these billboards near a significant travel hub points to the value that cannabis brands see in connecting with the travel demographic.

Navigating Complexities: The Federal Law and FAA Restrictions

Nonetheless, while there is a sense of optimism among cannabis brands, it is crucial to remember the complexities and uncertainties around changing cannabis laws and regulations. The FAA, as a federal agency, operates under federal law. Therefore, even if individual states continue to liberalize their cannabis laws, the FAA's restrictions on cannabis advertising will remain in place until there are changes at the federal level.

Looking Forward: The Anticipated Takeoff of Cannabis Brands in Airport Advertising

The future of cannabis advertising in airports is indeed promising, and the alignment between cannabis consumer demographics and the airport audience is clear. However, while we wait for a potential green light from federal agencies, cannabis brands must continue to navigate the unique challenges and restrictions of their industry. The lifting of airport advertising restrictions would undoubtedly provide a significant boost to these brands, both in terms of consumer reach and in promoting the normalization of cannabis products. The takeoff of cannabis brands into airport advertising space might be delayed, but the industry remains hopeful that it's more a matter of "when" than "if."

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