After the airing of our webinar Say YES to Restricted Categories, many attendees asked for more content on the topic. Specifically, local media sellers requested strategies for restricted category prospecting. To prepare our audience, we’ve compiled this list of tips to inspire smart targeting that can drive revenue wins. We’ll cover cannabis, CBD, alcohol, gambling and political.

Restricted Categories Outlook

First, let’s talk about the digital advertising revenue potential for restricted categories.


  • 2023 U.S. cannabis retail sales will rise to $38.8 billion.
  • The cannabis tourism market is worth $17 billion.
  • Cannabis sales are currently legal in 37 states, three territories and Washington, D.C.
  • Since legality is at the state level, local advertising receives this windfall. Most cannabis companies spend ad dollars on out-of-home and print, which isn’t measurable or targetable. Cannabis digital advertising delivers this, so that’s the first point to make when prospecting.


  • The CBD retail market is worth $4.37 billion.
  • A large variety of products exist in this market for both humans and pets.


  • Alcohol ad spending will reach $7.7 billion in 2023.
  • TV is the medium that sees the most of this budget, but digital advertising will account for 30% in 2023, up from 21% in 2019.
  • Alcohol advertising can include campaigns for retailers, online sales, and restaurant and bar offerings.


  • Online sports betting apps contributed $1.8 billion to local ad spend in 2022.
  • Sports betting brands have been transitioning more dollars to digital, up 10% year over year.
  • In 2022, the average monthly gambling spending was $72 million, up 57% from 2021.


  • 2022 was a record-breaking year for political advertising, and most of these dollars were at the local level since there wasn’t a presidential election. The total spend topped $17 billion.
  • Projections for 2024 are even greater, with ads already running in some areas. BIA Advisory Services projects $6.58 billion for local advertising.

With all these dollars up for grabs, what’s the best approach to restricted categories prospecting?

Prospecting Advice for Restricted Categories

Before you map out your prospecting plan, consult legal counsel on the legality of such ads in your region. Also, note that just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s permissible advertising, as that depends on the network and third-party digital technology you use. If you have the green light to go, these tips can help.

Find the Main Players for Cannabis, and Bring Awareness That Digital Advertising Is Possible

For cannabis digital advertising, you’ll want to identify the leading dispensaries in your city and state. Many have multiple stores within a state, and this may impact who the buyer is. Some dispensaries are mom-and-pop shops; others are more corporate.

Once you have this information, your prospecting is about demonstrating value and availability. Many dispensaries may be unaware that they can advertise digitally. You can provide this to them, and they’ll have a way to target their ideal audience and do things like geofence competitors or other businesses where their customers will be. Focus on the strengths of digital advertising and how businesses can improve awareness and drive traffic to their websites and physical stores.

Help CBD Retailers Looking for Specific Audiences

The CBD market is broad, but there are many niche products, and CBD retailers often want to target specific people. For example, many consumers use CBD for certain reasons, such as for a supplement to help with gut health or sore muscles. These people tend to live healthy lifestyles, so it makes sense to geofence gyms. Coming to the table with this tactic shows you’ve done your research and understand their customer base. You can learn this by researching these businesses. Then, tie that into the valid business reason in your outreach.

Approach Alcohol Digital Advertising as Video First

Alcohol ads, which we know have a large presence on TV, need to capture the experience, and video does this. It may not be something they’ve thought about in terms of being more omnichannel. Again, remind them of the targeting capabilities with digital, which can also reach cord-cutters.

You can start with local eateries known for their cocktails. Depending on your state, alcohol retail sales differ. Some have ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) stores, which is the only place to purchase liquor. In other states, you can buy any product at the grocery store. Understand the dynamics within your state. Targets beyond restaurants, bars and retailers that only sell alcohol include convenience and grocery stores. Many upscale regional grocery stores have extensive wine selections, and digital advertising can bring more awareness to this.

Advise the Gambling Industry of the Unique Benefits of Digital Advertising

Gambling, in general, spends a lot on TV spots. Those are their bread and butter, but they’ve moved the budget to digital. In any type of gambling, the experience is what they want to capture. Display and video ads do this with targeting. There are a few ways to differentiate your digital offerings from the rest:

  • Combine messaging for casinos that promote gaming, events, food and amenities. A quick video of highlights would entice guests.
  • Recommend geofencing areas where travelers congregate, such as RV parks, tourist spots or other casinos, and geotargeting of cities or regions where many visitors come from.
  • Provide sports betting brands with a new approach by suggesting campaigns targeting a specific demographic like women, focusing on retention with exclusive deals and highlighting the app’s unique features.
  • Tell casinos that you can create display campaigns with advanced targeting based on a person’s previous interaction with the business online.

Start Early for 2024 Political

The BIA projection noted that 22% of political ad spend would be digital, and much of that would be display and video. Previous cycles saw more investment in social media ads, but most of these platforms have new restrictions. Advertisers need to reallocate that money in a targeted way, and you can offer them digital advertising solutions via ZIP codes, behaviors, interests and demographics.

The best plan you can have for this prospecting is to start now. Primaries are less than a year away, and most candidates have declared. Now, it’s time to go back to candidates or PACs (political action committees) you’ve previously worked with and talk about options. What’s great about these advertisers is that they have a very well-defined persona they want to reach. If new candidates are coming onto the stage, start building relationships with their media buyers now. Keep in mind that several incumbents are retiring and won’t seek reelection, so those vying for the seat can start early to drive name recognition.

One thing to highlight to these groups is your reporting and the details and data it provides to analyze campaign performance. It’s highly valuable to them and could be a great leader when prospecting.

Restricted Category Prospecting: Diversify Your Customer Base, and Hook Advertisers with the Power of Digital

There’s a big opportunity in advertising for restricted categories — billions of dollars are on the table. Work with the entire sales team to map out how you will capitalize on this. First and foremost, you’ll need a third-party digital partner that can execute these campaigns legally and compliantly. Then, you’ll begin prospecting and making the case for digital. As you talk to more advertisers, you’ll hear questions, concerns and objections. Share those with the team, so you can be ready to respond to them accordingly. Building this prospecting knowledge can lead to best practices and strategies for your organization to capture more digital revenue!

For more insights on restricted categories, watch the webinar Say YES to Restricted Categories on demand.

Say YES to Restricted Categories with Expanded Digital Ad Capabilities Webinar