Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 1: CBD Programmatic Advertising

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo, Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, sat down with Phil Parrish, Co-Founder & Managing Director at PrograMetrix to discuss all things programmatic advertising in the cannabis industry. For more information go to

Read the Transcript

Lisa Buffo:  Hi, everyone. Welcome to Party Like a Marketer, the podcast where we break down cannabis and CBD marketing. Today, we’re talking to Phil Parrish, co-founder and Managing Director of PrograMetrix as a sales and marketing leader. Phil has spent the last 10 years of his career working within the digital marketing industry on the ad tech and agency sides.

Phil is the co-founder and Managing Director of PrograMetrix. A programmatic advertising agency in Seattle. PrograMetrix now helps  cannabis, CBD, hemp, and ancillary brands execute the same advertising strategies and ad tech solutions that drive great results for its fortune 500 clients like Aramark, Symantec, and Hilton.

This is our first episode, and today we are with Phil Parrish, who is the co-founder and Managing Director of Programetrix, which is a programmatic advertising agency out of Seattle, Washington, that services the cannabis industry as well as other verticals as well. This is Lisa Buffo, I’m the founder and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association. And thank you all so much for tuning in today. Phil, hello. Thanks for joining us.

Phil Parrish: Hi, Lisa. Thrilled to be with you on this podcast and excited to talk about all things cannabis, marketing, and other fun stuff that  I’m sure we’ll weave into the conversation.

Lisa Buffo: We will. It’s a pleasure to have you on. So Phil has been a CMA member for several months now. We met back in Denver through a mutual meeting that we had set up and we’ve been working closely together the last few months. Phil has also assisted us in launching in the Pacific Northwest. So I’m really excited to talk about, you know, some of the things we’ve done together, what you’re doing in the industry, and how programmatic advertising is available first and foremost, but also how it’s changing things for cannabis brands.

Phil Parrish: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s been great to be part of the Cannabis Marketing Association, learning from like-minded marketers in the space that are trying to improve, and grow their brands and, and just being open to learning. I know I’ve learned a lot. And so as we talk about programmatic advertising in cannabis, I think the first thing that’s important is to define what programmatic is, because it is a bit, a bit of a buzzword and it just can use the automation of digital advertising across a variety of channels. And so what I think is really interesting for cannabis and CBD marketers that they can start taking advantage of from a, from an advertising standpoint, is that you can use data to target ads on websites even beyond Facebook, Instagram and Google.

So the future, I think of cannabis advertising that’s available now is, serving and targeting digital video ads to users online who have visited dispensaries,  or targeting audio ads and running that on Spotify or Pandora to cannabis or CBD consumers. Even TV commercials through a wifi enabled TV, all of that can be automated through software and we use data to target those ads.

 And that’s what programmatic advertising means. Beyond that. We invest a lot of our, our client’s advertising dollars in mainstream platforms like Facebook and Instagram and Google. Obviously there’s a lot of regulations with those platforms, which we’ll be talking about today, but I just wanted to start at a high level of what programmatic is automation of digital advertising using data. And that will be a central theme for us throughout this conversation.

Lisa Buffo: Awesome. Well, can you tell us a little bit ,about who you are now before you entered the cannabis industry and you know, what made you get into programmatic advertising?

Phil Parrish: Yeah, so really it all started. I  graduated from a small university in Seattle, Seattle university, and obviously Seattle’s an incredible business market with some of the largest technology companies from a global perspective. I’m not, I’m from Northern California. So I’m from the sunshine and the warm area. And so it’s been, it’s been quite a transition up here in Seattle, where we have a lot of gray and not as much shine and some rain as I’m sure all of you have noticed or experienced while you’re here.

But, going back to Seattle, my Seattle roots, it’s just a great business and technology environment. And obviously it was, you know, one of the first States to approve, cannabis recreationally. And so dispensary’s started opening up in the summer of 2014. So it’s a very mature cannabis market. and so kind of my pathway to my career is out of, out of college, I got involved with an advertising technology company.

So really, learning about. AI and automation of advertising. I was on the sales and marketing side. the company I worked for was acquired years later, actually moved to New York and worked for a huge, you know, large media agency. And I, and I learned a lot being in Manhattan and doing the whole. Madmen thing, if you will, or poor man’s example of that.

And then after that experience in New York, my business partner, Chris Reeve, and I did started to create our own, decided to create our own agency in our niche in this space is that we realize ad advertising technology companies are investing heavily in sales and they’re not investing as much in service.

They hope that they can sign marketers or agency sees their technology and that those companies fly away and are self-serving. But most agencies or marketers aren’t because the technology’s very complex on the side. Your normal media agency, or even a creative agency is really good at strategy and support, but they don’t understand the advertising technology because to my earlier point, it’s so complex.

So we service a void in the middle where we’re an agency that provides a great strategy, high touch service, but we leverage really innovative. Technology and integrate that so that our clients can target ads and measure performance. you know, as accurately as possible, we do a great job at that. And so my transition into cannabis is that my business partner, Chris Shreve and his family own multiple dispensaries in the Seattle market. And they’re given, expanding in the Bay area. So going multi-state and we’ve just learned a lot about the operations of a dispensary and the types of products you assess putting on your shelves. And so we know how. Cannabis dispensary’s and brands operate.

And so Chris and I wanted to get into cannabis marketing in about, what was that, about 2016, about three years ago, we, we started ,thinking of creating a different brand, a different agency and going through the business plan. But when we did the R and D, we just learned that the technology wasn’t there and the companies weren’t approving those ads.

So we put it on pause. but the amazing thing is, you know, in this, in the last 18 months, boy, have things changed. The regulations are loosening, and I have a lot of exciting news to share in our audience today about that is a lot of people that don’t know what they can achieve today, right here right now.

But I think what’s more optimistic looking forward is that every month, certainly every three months, things continue to change, and I think it provides more strategic opportunities for cannabis and CBD brands to leverage, to, to grow their brands at a high level.

Lisa Buffo: Did you study advertising at Seattle U?

Phil Parrish: I was a, I was a marketing major, and we talked a little bit about advertising academically in the class, but it wasn’t as if I determined I wanted to be an advertising executive. I just think it’s a form and function of marketing. And I think as, as our company has grown, we’ve developed and incorporate a lot more marketing knowledge and can share that with clients.

But we do really specialize in paid media and digital advertising. Right. But I, I definitely think of myself as a marketer, more so than a, just an advertising specialist.

Lisa Buffo: That makes sense.  So you started PrograMetrix in 2016?

Phil Parrish: We were operational in October of 2015. but really started gaining steam, yes, in 2016.

Lisa Buff: Cool. So you’re in about year four, three, four of your business?

Phil Parrish: Yeah. Yes. Once, you know, they say, once you reached that five-year Mark. If you can still have the doors open and clients want to keep working with you and they like it, you’re. You’re kind of figuring it out and I think we’ve done that.

Lisa Buffo: Awesome. And so I’m guessing before you guys started in 2016, were you servicing clients outside of the cannabis industry?

Phil Parrish: Yes. And I think that’s really important for cannabis marketers business owners to understand is that we built our agency working with clients that we had developed long-term relationships with back at our previous company.

So even currently, we work with companies and I think people recognize these brands, Aramark, which is a food services company, but has developed new lines of business, like travel destination services, so we help them with digital advertising. We help companies like Hilton Hotels and La Quinta Resort in Palm Desert drive bookings to their unbelievable resorts.

We help technology companies like Symantec in cybersecurity or frontier communications, and you know, telecommunications and internet. We also help, and just to show you the diversity of our client base a higher education brand, the unit that.The university of Southern California Marshall school of business, and we’re promoting their specialty master’s and MBA program.

So that’s very diverse. So we were working with. Very talented marketers in the main stream. some fortune 500 brands and also well-capitalized high growth startups that are really trying to grow and understand the importance of investing in marketing to accelerate growth and revenue. And so I, I mentioned that because I think in moving forward in the cannabis and CBD industry, I think the business owners and marketers that have the best chance of success and really growing their business can combine the passion of what I call a, a legacy cannabis marketer or business owner that perhaps got started out.

When it was grassroots and might have that chip on their shoulder, that we have a lot to prove, but that can also incorporate great business and operational acumen and maybe even recruiting talent from the mainstream, which we’re starting to see more and more of in our industry.

So we can combine the strategies, technology, and service that we’re offering to mainstream fortune 500 clients and bring those same strategies, technology and services to the cannabis industry, because our belief is that our mission is that today’s forward thinking which cannabis marketer or business owner can’t be marketing and advertising like their competitors and other people in the space, because this is what everyone else is doing.

You need to learn what’s going on in the mainstream from the best global companies and figure out ways strategically that you can incorporate those same strategies and technologies to grow your cannabis business.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, and it does seem like there is a sentiment in the industry that because cannabis is so new and because it’s so different that we are doing this for the first time.

And while that is true to some degree, I think the principles of marketing and advertising and the principles of running a business properly do remain the same. And there’s a lot that we, as an industry can learn from. Those other sectors and from, folks who are coming from other industries and coming in to work as well.

So I think that’s a really good point you make about taking what’s working outside of cannabis and, and bringing that in. So I do want to talk a bit about the unique ,challenges that cannabis marketers face. One of the things that is unique to this industry is that. As of today, January 17th, 2020, cannabis is still a federally illegal schedule one controlled substance.

So the market landscape is quite different when you’re dealing with something that is legal on a state by state basis, but we still don’t have any federal guidance. So we see that the regulations are very different at this city, county, and state level, and that there’s really no uniform standards across the board.

So my question to you, Phil, is, you know, when you work with your clients in programmatic, what is the biggest issue that you see them struggling with from cannabis marketing? Is it the regulations or is it, you know, maybe knowing what is available to them?

Phil Parrish: Brilliant question. I think it’s the latter. I think it’s really understanding what’s available because in our line of business, it’s our job. We’re in fact, we’re not doing our job. If we’re not coming to a client, a cannabis marketer or a business owner, and showing them very clearly. Here are the regulations, here are the guidelines by which we need to develop ad creative.

Right? We need to make sure that our messaging, the image assets we use in ads are compliant. So that’s one subset. And the other is, the ad inventory, the, the space online that we can insert ads that needs to be compliant. So I think cannabis, marketers and business owners should be relying on us as an agency or other consultants and advisors out in this space that are also talented.

We’re not the only ones, to guide them in the right direction. I think if you’re trying to do that on your own as a cannabis marketer, a business owner, amongst all of the other things you’re trying to manage with your business, it’s really, really difficult. So I think for us, it’s just. First educating business owners and marketers that it is, this is a false statement that because I can’t advertise on Facebook and Google, I can’t do digital advertising unless I go to endemic sites like high times, or a specialty ad network that some of the marketers listening today might, might know of the, the mantis ad network. But to my earlier point, if you’re advertising there, I still think it can be effective when we do invest some of our client’s dollars there, but you’re advertising where your competition is.

And does that end user that you’re trying to reach and persuade and, enticed to click or, or go to your website? They’re going to drown you out because you’re amongst all of this, these other brands that look just like yours. Right? And so for us, it’s the education of, of what’s available and how sophisticated this can be.

But I think to your earlier point, regulations across the board are so difficult to manage. So here’s an example in our state and Washington and it’s I five Oh two state. There’s a great likelihood that dispensary’s and I think billboard advertising out of home billboard advertising is very effective for dispensaries.

And, and so there’s a good chance, based on what happens on the ballot, that those billboards are coming down. It will be illegal in the state of Washington, to run billboard ads. And I think that can really negatively impact the marketing strategy for dispensary’s. So.

Lisa Buffo: We’ve never had billboards here in Colorado.

Phil Parrish: Right?  And so that’s a great example of how different it is in another state. That’s mature, right in Colorado. So I think the dispensary here in Washington state has been able to leverage that, but it could be going away. And I think a lot of companies that might be 80% of their marketing investment. So what are the other alternatives?

And that’s what we’re here to help with. So it’s certainly is daunting and challenging. But I also think that’s why, marketers and owners who are very serious about growing their brands should look for expertise and specialists that can guide them in the right route to make sure they’re compliant, but also pushing the boundaries of what’s possible too really grow and to separate themselves from the competition.

Lisa Buffo: So, I wanted to take a step back to a point you had made earlier when you talked about how it’s your job in making sure your clients know what compliance means for an online ad. And I do think that’s something where there’s a lot of confusion around the cannabis marketing regulations as they’re written, at its core, are really intended to protect people who shouldn’t be seeing them like children, for example. So there’s a lot of compliance issues around who is the audience, and how do you factor that in, how can you ensure that this ad is being seen by an adult mature audience? So can you talk a little bit about what compliance means from an online advertising perspective and maybe some of the things you’re telling your, your license holder clients?

Phil Parrish: Yeah, I think, I think it would be good to give some examples. so, so first and foremost, I want to separate and in this part of the conversation, CBD brands, exclusive CBD br ands from cannabis and THC brands with CBD. And even last week, there was an announcement that, advertising for CBD shouldn’t be approved kin d of across, you know, advertising systems.

So there’s, there’s more and more momentum with, with CBD. But for CBD brands, there’s a lot less regulations in terms of the technologies, you can use, the places you can advertise, and that’s great for CBD companies. Even then, there are certain guidelines within the ad itself. One of the big ones for CBD is that you cannot make unsubstantiated medical claims, right?

That this is going to, I’m going to use, you know, pretty, pretty big examples here, this, you know, this is this can’t, you know, you can’t make the claim that this can cure cancer or it’s going to cure disease. I think promoting it as a general health and wellness supplement or oral organic product is great messaging.

Right? So even within the CBD side, You have to be careful with your message also with the imagery in your ads. So, you know, if you’re featuring images of the plant, that’s going to be regulated and audited and that’s going to be a no-go, right? So that’s very high level on the CBD side. On the cannabis THC side, there’s a lot more regulations in the ads themselves.

And I’ll give you an example of something through the, the liquor and cannabis board here in Washington for cannabis and CBD brands, they have to insert a disclaimer in their app, and we work with companies on this. However, the liquor and cannabis board does not mandate that the disclaimer has to be a certain font size or that the color of that disclaimer has to stand out from the background of the image from the ad itself.

Right? So there are ways we’re maintaining compliance, while still not having that negatively impact the of the, the perception of that ad. Right? Because we’re trying to drive performance or trying to get people to click and to go to these websites. So there are strategic ways that you can work within the confines of the ad regulations and still provide value. I think, from a targeting of the media, so buying media space, that’s, that’s also another part of the conversation. So for CBD boy companies don’t realize that type of technology they can use. I mean, we’re, we’ll buy a lot of our programmatic media, so connected TV ads and video ads and audio ads for CBD companies through a company called The Trade Desk, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ,

and it’s an unbelievable technology, CBD brands can run there, full force, like wind in the sails, no, you know, no concerns. For cannabis and THC brands, we have identified other partners, our preferred partner is SafeReach, which provides access to cannabis compliant ad inventory, so literally, we’re helping cannabis and THC brands target digital ads on sites like USA Today and SF Gate and Barstool Sports and The Chive and Newsweek.

And that is disruptive. That’s forward thinking. That is going to elicit engagement with your ads because those are mainstream sites. Right? So there’s a lot of compliance, regulations. We stay on top of that. I think the other thing for our audience to understand is that for, and we’re talking digital marketing and advertising, we have to understand it’s just much harder to audit.

It’s much harder to regulate, right? Internet based companies have that strategic advantage.  And I think that’s important for marketers and owners to understand that with digital, you have a lot more room in the sandbox to play with while still being compliant and not at risk.

Lisa Buffo: So I, I want to clarify one thing for the audience. So CBD can come from both the cannabis plant and the hemp plant. And so as CBD as terms of how Phil talking about it is the companies that are producing CBD from the hemp plant, which is regulated under the farm bill, not necessarily CBD that comes from, or maybe infused with THC from the cannabis plant, which is going to be regulated by your local state authority.

So two questions to that bill. So in terms of what you were saying about compliance and aunts, And whatnot. Have you seen, the, the liquor control board cracked down on that? Is that something where you feel they are, are not regulating or maybe don’t have, eyes on online as much?

Phil Parrish: I have not seen from either our clients or other brands we’ve talked with that has had any issues.

With the, the, cannabis and liquor board in terms of advertising compliance. We’ve, we’ve heard some rumblings on billboards because there are some really clear guidelines there. You have to be a certain distance from a school zone or park, for example, but for digital, it’s just really hard to regulate.

And we haven’t seen that firsthand. No, I’ve read, we’ve read publications from other companies that have made those. Unsubstantiated claims and have gotten in trouble or had to pay fines, but in our role of what we’re doing, obviously we’re, we’re, we’re in compliance. and I think that was a great point you made. Yes,  from a CBD advertising perspective, that has to be. You have to based him back strapped also within that, if there is any THC in your CBD product or on your website, then you don’t have the same access to those tools and technology. It has to be a true CBD brand, no THC hemp-based, hemp-derived to take full advantage of those opportunities.

Lisa Buffo: Totally. 100%. and it’s interesting cause even in places, if we’re talking about ad compliance in California, for example, every ad that you produce for a cannabis company, it has to also include the license, holders, name and number. It’s really a number, not a name, but it’ll say license number, you know, XYZ number, number, number.

So that, you know, that that is coming from a business that was licensed and regulated under the state authority there. and they have it on their billboards. They have it in their print advertising. I’ve gone to conferences and I have a water bottle. That’s branded from a brand out there. And even the water bottle has the license number on it.

So that lets you know that, cannabis based company is producing that ad. and I do see that as a really important factor in cannabis marketing, moving forward as to help the general public, also be able to distinguish who is producing what, Okay. So that being said, I do want to talk about some trends in cannabis marketing, and particularly what you’re seeing, how you’re seeing digital move things forward, to be able to get ads on sites like USA Today today, and the chive is a big deal because we’re reaching a mainstream audience.

I’ve been working in this industry almost five years now, a little bit longer than that, actually. And. In the beginning in the early days, the 2014 and earlier, it was very much so you would see ads in these niche, trade publications. So just like you were saying, you know, the high times or adult magazine where you were seeing every cannabis brand advertise in there, because it was definitely compliant.

It was definitely, an audience that was consuming. But when I talk to business owners today, they’re often saying, is it, is it still worth it to advertise there? Because it just feels like it’s all of us as business owners looking at each other’s ads, it’s not actually the consumers reading them.

So to be able to take it sort of out of our echo chamber and into the mainstream is a really big step. Well, I want to talk a little bit about how you think digital marketing is going to change the landscape for cannabis marketing moving forward in particularly what I want to talk about is reaching new audiences.

we, you know, something I say here in Colorado is we marketed to that 25 year old male consumer to death. They know that cannabis is here and we are creating ads targeted to them and they are coming to the, the stores. But maybe we’re not targeting, women like my mom, someone of an older generation who’s female.

And how do we reach them when she’s not reading High Times? So how do you see, you know, digital changing that and what are some important factors to consider for brands who are going for those mainstream channels that are maybe not cannabis, traditionally cannabis specific audience?

Phil Parrish: Yeah, really, really good question, because is, as we got into this industry and as it started to grow, I think everyone had preconceived notions or assumptions about the consumer base.

 Right. And, and what’s been really fun and interesting to learn is that. You know, the consumer base is so diverse from an age perspective, from a gender  perspective perspective, from a psychographic interest, right? So as you mentioned, there are certainly young individuals that from a lifestyle, you know, love smoking a joint or vaping.

There’s also older women who have finally found a way to relieve. Let’s say chronic pain or back pain. And that might come through a supplement, like, you know, cannabis, infuse of sugar that they can put in their coffee in the morning and make them feel better. So it’s very diverse. And because of that, I think as all brands have learned, there are so many unique audiences that ideally you’d wish to target with a message that resonates with them from a personalized, tailored perspective. And so I think the answer to this important question lies in data, what we are doing is

beyond even saying, okay, we can run a cannabis ad on USA today, which even if we can do that, That’s great. I think that’s, that’s being innovative and making progress.

Furthermore, from a compliance standpoint for a cannabis and THC product in promotion, we apply 21 plus age targeting that’s data we can secure from third-party data providers. So that is part of the compliance. So now we’re talking about advertising on USA today. 21 plus great progress. But there is so much more that can be achieved.

So we have the ability, let’s say with the older woman who has pain and is looking for a way to manage that we can target a female that is over the age of 55, and we can access data from third parties, from health data, like chronic back pain or. You know, insomnia and we can use those datasets and target them to individuals and monitor that performance.

And furthermore, we can customize our ad to speak to that individual consumer. So I think that is going to be a big trend in 2020 and beyond. Is not only brands understanding that they can run digital advertising on mainstream sites, but to incorporate data, to pinpoint the targeting of that. And then also looking at the data and analytics with your site to make sure that, Hey, in the, and holding this targeting accountable, is this working, are we getting engagement on our side? Do we have more people coming into our life location? Do we have more people placing product in their online shopping cart and purchasing based on what you’re, what you’re selling and able to promote?

Right? So these are all things we can do. Using data to target those ads very, very effectively.

Lisa Buffo: And who are the providers that have that data and that information. How does that factor into the model?

Phil Parrish: Yeah, really, really good question. So I think what we’re going to see a lot more of is that. Dispensaries and companies that are selling products and are capturing that data in a point of sale or a CRM system, can one use that data to their advantage, to find.

Other internet users who exhibit the same browsing behaviors or tendencies or demographic information to target, you know, net new customers. So that’s a real key advantage. I think companies along the way will understand that with the approval from consumers. But they can also offer that data to other companies to target.

So point of sale data, CRM data, loyalty customers. I know a lot of dispensary’s are running loyalty programs and they’re running, let’s say an SMS, text messaging, campaign for customer retention and offers that data can be accessible and onboarded online to target ads. I think in the mainstream, when you look at the health benefits of CBD and cannabis, I can give you one example of a company called Crossix.

Not that that’s a household name, but Crossix is a leader in. distilling data on, general health and wellness and health ailments. And so I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of in our industry is the ability for CBD and cannabis to improve our lifestyles and our health and wellness. So leveraging those types of data sets from mainstream companies, companies that have been doing this for years is once again, something we can do today for clients that we are doing today.

And I think that will evolve over time. A separate conversation for another day is data compliance.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah.

Phil Parrish: Things like CCPA, which if you’re a marketer you might be aware of in California. So there is once again a legal way and an ethical way to use data to target digital ads. And there are ways that, you know, there are companies that have gotten in trouble. for their use of data and not making that aware to people, that are buying, you know, that space or using that data without approval. So that’s a whole other realm of compliance, but in general, data-driven advertising works and it works on the back end and measuring results and holding our campaigns, our strategies accountable and, and showing our clients, is this moving the dial for your business, right?

Are you increasing sales? Are you increasing website, traffic? Whatever their goal is. The truth lies in the data. And I think that needs to manifest itself more in the cannabis industry, specifically for marketing campaigns and programs.

Lisa Buffo: Awesome. Well, I want to get into it. So we do know that the cannabis industry is quite different from other industries out there because we are in such a highly regulated and unique environment. So I’m curious, what is, what do you notice is the big difference for you personally about working in cannabis versus when you were working in New York advertising?

Phil Parrish: Yeah, first thing, I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone, but, you know, and, and great example, going back to New York, you know, the the people in this industry for the most part, aren’t the suits.

 Right. And I really enjoy having just open, fun dialogue. And that doesn’t mean we’re not working with direct people or people that are. Sure, certainly extremely busy and need business outcomes and results. But the context of those discussions, this is the feel in the room is quite different. Right. And, and I think the core reason is the passion that people have in this industry. That has been really eyeopening. We’re so fortunate to work with ease, great business owners and marketers that have tremendous passion every day for what they’re doing. And so many of these individuals really feel in their bones that they’re doing good, and that as an industry, we’re onto something and we have to keep moving it forward.

We have to keep blazing the trail if you will. So that passion has been really interesting. I would say even the environment in which we have in person meetings is a bit different. You know, often times it’s just a small little office, you know, so it’s certainly less of the corporate feel. But once again, I made the point earlier.

I think we are acquiring in the industry more talent from the mainstream. I think it will evolve over time. And I’m not saying that there aren’t big companies in this space that do feel a bit more corporate, but just the, the, the context of these meetings and discussions it’s just free and easy. It’s fun.

And when you’re working with people that are really passionate about their product or their service, that just makes our job a lot more fun and easier because we’re collaborative, right? We’re getting the information we needed to help our clients. That’s been really eyeopening and fun for me.

Lisa Buffo: And I meant to ask this earlier, but do you work with your clients on the copy for their ads? I’m curious how you’re personally changing how the cannabis industry is perceived. Do you sort of help them with the creative direction or provide insight to that, or is that largely, or do you work with partners on that or do they come to you with that? And you help them with strategy?

Phil Parrish: Really good question, because we are highly specialized in the data-driven media placement, but we do, help build ads. So static display banners, banner ads, as most people would know them. We do help with the messaging and the imagery and really creating, engaging ads that are compliant. And yes, I think what we’re educating, you know, our client base with and others in this space is that your brand, your, your products are so much more than, targeted to, or speaking to the quote unquote stoner.

Right. And that doesn’t mean the quote unquote stoner. Isn’t an important part of your. Customer base and someone you want to speak to, but your brand, your product is so much more than that. And I think we need to appeal to the mainstream consumer base, right? Because we know our customer base is so much larger than just the young stoner, which is a lot of the assumptions from people outside the industry.

So, yeah, elevating this in a more marketable fashion, that’s more digestible and intriguing to mainstream consumers is really important. and we have a lot of theories, art and science. We built into the ad creative to make it engaging and to make sure that it performs for more advanced creative assignments, like digital video, as I was talking about, or 10 80 P 15 or 32nd TV commercials that we can target to flat screen TVs in someone’s home or audio advertising. Right. We do work with partners that can build those kind of more complex for RO robust creative assets. And that’s going to become more and more of. Of where I think we’re going to be targeting our media in those channels. And so creating effective video ads, that’s a whole nother ball game that I’ll be candid.

We don’t do internally, but we also help our clients find partners that are highly specialized in areas that we aren’t. So they’re getting the best of both worlds

Lisa Buffo: And I’ve seen, I believe it was from BDS analytics recently that basically says as a market matures. So we could use Colorado in Washington for an example, we’re considered a core market because these are the two States that have had of the early States who have had legal cannabis for… since 2014 and we’re now into 2020, so six years is considered a mature market, but basically that as time goes on in a market, the average cannabis consumer is gets older and wealthier and more educated than the general public. So we’re actually seeing as time goes on, who’s coming in to dispensary’s and who’s buying and consuming cannabis is, is trending in that older, wealthier direction.

And they’re consuming in a more conscious way. So it’s really interesting to see the ways in which the stigma and the barriers are coming down. And I believe the, exact data was that the average consumer in Colorado now as a 42 year old male, which I think was probably not the case in 14. so it’s really interesting to see how culturally, how things have shifted, how the industry is doing is allowing for that type of person to come in and be the target customer of many of these stores

Phil Parrish: And look how quick that’s happened. Right. So that’s a great  and data point there. Because four or five years ago, that kind of core consumer could have been much younger and was talking four or five years ago.

So it’s, it’s crazy to think what’s going to happen in this industry. What’s going to happen with the consumer base once finally, our organic plant is rescheduled and not federally illegal. And we all know that at some point in the future, we can all guess as to when that’s going to happen, but just imagine what that’s going to do once the, the, you know, we’re, we’re unshackled from the, the, the chains, if you will.

So it’s amazing. How things are trending and how quickly it’s changing. It really is.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah. I like to say that it’s a $5 plant disrupting multi-billion dollar industry is really exciting. I’m like weed for no reason. It’s actually quite easy to grow at home once you, kind of get the hang of it.

Phil Parrish: Yes. And that, that’s funny. That’s, that’s a really good example. you know, one thing I wanted to make sure I brought up today and my hope in the industry is in general, whether it’s, hymn based CBD or cannabis THC product am. My, my hope is that I think we can all acknowledge as a society. We have a serious issue with opioid addiction.

In fact, our agency, helps the state of Wyoming run. And awareness campaign for opioid addiction. So we know this space very well. So you know where I’m going with this. My hope is that our organic plant can reduce the dependency that our society has on opioids and other pills that are being prescribed by big pharma and our own physicians and doctors.

That’s a fundamental problem. We need to address in a much healthier way. That’s truly going to save lives and that’s perhaps above anything else. The thing I am most, I’m excited for, in our, in our advocating for it. I think that’s so important and I know we’re making progress there and, and it’s going to be really cool to see how we continue to make an impact on that, on that front in the years to come.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, I think your point about how this is an exciting and a very passionate industry. I think a lot of the business owners in this space have a lot of really great stories about how cannabis changed and impacted their life. And so, and maybe they were addicted to opioids or they were using prescription.

that it’s been for certain ailments and then they have switched to cannabis and cannabis has made such an impact on their lungs that now they’ve chosen to work and dedicate their life to this space. So I, I, I go your sentiment of really enjoying, that aspect of the industry.

Phil Parrish: You know, and, and on that point, Lisa, you know, beyond digital advertising and paid media, which is our specialization to your point, there are so many owners and marketers that have a really unique.

Powerful powerful story to share. And I think that’s the importance of PR right. Public relations and what we call earned media, because you have to share your story with an unbiased source, the media and get that published. And so I think PR is another great realm of digital marketing that I don’t think enough cannabis, business owners and marketers are focusing on or aware that, that’s a really important part of their general marketing plan. And I think to your point, because these owners and marketers have such a unique and powerful story to share, there’s a lot of journalists and people in the media that are looking for a unique angle or a unique story. And, and I think that can just come organically from these cannabis or CBD business owners and marketers.

And so I think PR and earned media needs to be more and more of a focus in the overall marketing strategy for these companies in the industry.

Lisa Buffo: Well and the thing to think about with PR is that it’s protected under the first amendment. So speak to the media. It’s a, it is a form of communication or marketing if you will, with your audience, but it is protected under free speech.

So we as an industry and as marketers and professionals are allowed to have those conversations and tell those stories in a way that is also compliant and can add a lot of authenticity to the message that you’re trying to put out there. So I, I agree with that strategy and think that’s really great.

Phil Parrish: Yeah. And I, you know, the last thing I’d say on that is I completely agree. I also would say it’s our duty to share our stories. You continue to propel this industry forward. And so once again, I think that’s such a, an amazing opportunity for these companies and the general marketing strategy and that the great thing about PR once you earn that media, you own that space.

It’s not going away. That’s the difference with paid media. That’s just a rental that ad impression we serve on a site that someone sees that’s a rental and then it’s gone, right? The advantage of paid media is you can turn it on and immediately start driving traffic. So having that diversified marketing approach between earned media through public relations, paid media through data-driven advertising, and then optimizing your website.

And your search engine optimization. If you have all of that going for you from a digital marketing perspective, you have a diversified plan and that’s going to really propel your growth. That’s, that’s next generation thinking within this industry. And so those marketers that are putting the plans and processes in to accomplish that are a step ahead, for sure.

Lisa Buffo: Awesome. So why don’t you tell the audience what’s next for Phil and PrograMetrix and how can they find you?

Phil Parrish: Yes, what’s next for us in the industry, we’ve launched new web content, we’ve hired a marketing manager, who formerly had a couple of years of experience at Leafly and she’s just an amazing writer, and is very passionate about the industry.

So, really, I think we’re investing in education. We’re investing in sharing our content and our learnings so that whether you’re investing in our firm to help you improve your marketing and your advertising and ultimately grow your business, you can still extract value. So for us in this industry, it’s about educating.

It’s about speaking at conferences and engaging with people and continuing to push the boundaries and innovate. Once again, our mission within the cannabis and CBD industry is to bring the same marketing and advertising strategies, advertising technologies, and service that we deploy to the mainstream, even fortune 500 companies and make it available.

To cannabis and CBD companies today. That’s our mission. We’re going to be, advocating for that. We’re going to leave no stone unturned and we just want to connect with people, build long-term relationships and help them grow their business. you can find [email protected]. It’s a tricky technical spelling.

P R O G R a M E T R I We have a whole. Cannabis and CBD content on our website. That’s easy to find. so come check us out and, and I do want to say to our audience, in being involved with you, Lisa, and all of the tremendous work you’ve put in and your team’s put into building. The Cannabis Marketing Association and very excited for your Cannabis Marketing Summit in February, which I know is going to be your kind of tent-pole event.

I can say firsthand as a professional, always trying to improve and learn that the investment we’ve made in CMA, immediate return and the people we’re able to connect with and just. Going to what the CMA panels and just really connecting with people that are serious about growing their business has been awesome.

So on an individual basis, it’s, it’s truly valuable from a business perspective, we have generated business  by being associated with the Cannabis Marketing Association. And I just, as, you know, at least I’m a big fan for what you’re doing. You’re pushing the industry forward in a ethical, moral way. You’re, you’re helping educate people.

At the end of the day, even if we’re competing, we’re just trying to get better and we’re trying to move our industry forward. And I think this association and what you’re building, what we’re trying to achieve is doing just that. And I have a lot of pride in that as does my team, and we’re going to continue. Working together and just very excited at the opportunities ahead of us.

Lisa Buffo: Yes. Thank you everybody for listening today, you can learn more information about Phil in the description below and his company program metrics. You can find him at and you can find us at Thank you very much and stay tuned for our next episode.

Thank you for listening, and don’t forget to join us on June 1st through fourth for the first virtual Cannabis Marketing Summit this year.

Meet Your Host

LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association

Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21.

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