Advertising in highly regulated industries

IntakeNow Team

Google AdWords Policy Questions on Cannabis ads or personalized ads? Learn from the lawyers!

Digital advertising platforms have a lot of policy rules. This is all within an effort to support a healthy digital advertising ecosystem that is trustworthy and works for both users, advertisers and publishers alike. But the internet is constantly changing, and thus the advertising regulation is constantly adapting with it. While other advertisers find this frustrating, the lawyers in us at IntakeNow, find this constant change intriguing.

Digital advertising for law firms is difficult for several reasons: clicks are expensive, clients question everything, and the industry is highly regulated by advertising platforms such as Google and Facebook. In managing ads for law firms on these platforms for over 10 years, Intake Now has developed tremendous experience navigating this complex ad policy and regulation space. These lessons have far reaching applications for other highly regulated industries, such as, healthcare and medicine, cannabis, financial services, and employment and personalized ads.

Google Ads Policy Tips and Considerations

1. “Automated Policies are Often Incorrect”

Google uses a combination of automated and human evaluation to ensure compliance with its advertising policies, but the automated portion of this process often makes mistakes. If the rationale behind the ad policy decisions assigned to your account is unclear, it is worth reaching out for a review/appeal via direct support channels.

This can be vital in accelerating the time it takes for your ads  to be reviewed. Relying on the ads review within the platform can take several days to a week. By requesting the review in the platform and supplementing the request with direct outreach, your review will most likely be moved up in the queue.

2. Google’s advertising policies cover four broad areas

These are the following:

  • Prohibited content
  • Prohibited practices
  • Restricted content and features,
  • Editorial and technical.

Both law firm and cannabis advertising fall under the “Restricted content and features” category. This is content that can be advertised on Google, but with limitations. Playing within these limitations is the key to success in both industries.

Although medical cannabis falls under Google’s recreational drug definition, CBD products fall under Google’s rules relating to unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements.

3. Words written in ad headlines, and words used as keywords are note treated equally

The “Restricted content and features” designation means in practice that Google DOES NOT allow any ads that have ad copy or landing page content that’s related to cannabis or related terms.

This prohibition only relates to ad copy and landing page content, however, and does not exclude the use of cannabis (or related terms) from a keyword targeting perspective.  Similar to many advertising for certain practices of law, Google does allow for cannabis/cbd related advertising, but only when done  in adherence with their  policies. The challenge in this space is finding a way to convey your product offering to relevant users without using specific category words that violate these policies. Intake Now has 10+ years experience walking this fine line.

IntakeNow Policy Assistance Case Study: Adia US


Adia is a global leader in on-demand staffing and workforce planning. As the world adapts to the macro level changes of COVID-19, labor force flexibility has become even more important to the success of large enterprises. As a result of these trends, total queries around ‘on-demand staffing’ have been steadily on the rise, and as a result Google had modified its platform policies around employment in personalized ads. The challenge was to assist Adia in capturing this increased search demand, while maintaining proper compliance within Google’s changing regulatory landscape.

Process / Platforms

Google Search:

After evaluating the policy closely and leveraging support across Google’s internal channels, we determined exactly what was necessary for each individual staffing industry (retail, supply chain, cleaning, etc.) to be compliant with Google ads. This meant reviewing our targeting, ad copy, and landing page experience to ensure full compliance. Through this approach, we were able to craft a strategy, develop written copy, and deploy new ads that could run in full compliance across all categories and generate positive returns.


The impact was significant. Please find our client’s testimonial below:

“Dan has been amazing to work with. Our AdWords campaigns were struggling with new compliant regulations set by Google. We hired him to help get us out of the gutter and he provided a lot of up-front data to back his recommendations for a new campaign. We immediately saw success from the changes he implemented and continued to optimize and work toward our very specific goals and needs. He's been a pleasure to work with during this transition period and we'd recommend him to any business who needs an overhaul of their AdWords campaigns. That's always a scary and difficult task, but you'll be in good hands with Dan.”

James McNeal Director of Sales & B2B Marketing at Adia US

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