While many industries underwent significant change over the course of 2020, cannabis in particular had an eventful year, with multiple states voting on changes in legalization as part of the election. 

In this edition of Insights from the Buy-Side, we caught up with Nicole Cosby, Chief Data & Compliance Officer at Fyllo. Fyllo is a leading digital marketing company focused on helping brands and publishers ensure their cannabis advertising follows local and federal laws. After a busy 2020, check out what Nicole had to say about 2021.

Nicole Cosby
Chief Data & Compliance Officer at Fyllo

Nicole is the Chief Data & Compliance Officer at Fyllo. An attorney and ad tech executive, Nicole has an impressive background in digital advertising/data policy, brand strategy/licensing, and business alliance development across the advertising, media, fashion, and entertainment industries. Most recently Nicole was Senior Vice President of Standards and Partnerships for Publicis Media, and she has also held director-level posts in product management, ad product marketing, and partnership development for AOL, Kai Communications, and BET Networks.

OpenX: How much are you anticipating 2021 to grow for the CBD/Cannabis industry in programmatic and why?

Nicole Cosby: Cannabis is the fastest-growing industry in the US, with digital ad spends poised to surpass “traditional” highly regulated industries such as tobacco and pharma, who both currently spend around $10 billion annually, according to eMarketer. Without even including Facebook and Google, cannabis digital ad spend was $3B in 2019, $6.7B in 2020 and expected to double again in 2021. More and more publishers, SSPs, DSPs and data providers are embracing the opportunities in this market when managed compliantly through offerings such as what we’re doing with Fyllo Media Solutions and Regulatory Solutions (Compliance Automation).

OpenX: Did the 2020 election (and results) impact your planning for the upcoming year, especially being in the industry you are in?

Nicole Cosby: Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and Mississippi all voted for some form of legalization and/or decriminalization of cannabis, and these 2020 election results were a validation of our planning and market analysis of states on the verge of legalization. 

We were anticipating our existing clients would be poised to take advantage of the continued growth and expansion of the cannabis vertical, including expansion of their advertising reach and dollars. For our ad clients, this not only signaled the growth opportunities to target customers in these markets, but the potential for further expansion into surrounding markets as advancements in cannabis tend to have regional impact and expedite legislation in neighboring states.

OpenX: How are you approaching audience and identity targeting, and are you thinking about the death of the cookie?

Nicole Cosby: With changing consumer sentiment around ad targeting and personal privacy, and the development of regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, in many ways, the ultimate destruction of the cookie has been coming for years. 

For Fyllo, we have built our data business around a highly regulated industry – cannabis – thus requiring fully compliant solutions to engage the interest of advertisers. Our focus is on first party data (loyalty, POS, purchase data) which has been leveraged via anonymized segments that can guide our clients without compromising user privacy. 

OpenX: What emerging trend or piece of technology are you most excited about today?

Nicole Cosby: I’m very excited about the Fyllo Data Marketplace. The Fyllo Data Marketplace is based on the increasing growth of the cannabis consumer market (1 in 4 adults consume cannabis or CBD, according to MRI-Simmons). These consumers may be found across virtually every demo and represent huge spending power in everyday categories – CPG/Retail; Health & Wellness; Media & Entertainment; QSR; and Spirits. As such, we’ve developed the largest ecosystem of cannabis and CBD purchase data via our third party endemic partnerships and have just acquired Data Owl, one of the leading cannabis loyalty and POS data solutions. Via our endemic audiences we are able to reach known cannabis and CBD consumers, and via our infused audiences, we offer increased value to non-endemic brands via our demographic, lifestyle, interest and brand purchaser audiences enriched with cannabis and CBD transaction data.

I am also fascinated by the new potential AI is bringing to ad targeting and how The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing exponentially. Managing programmatic platforms through AI will enable the use of targeting signals and real-time adaptation for individual ads or campaigns via any given channel. As AI becomes increasingly integrated with adtech, efficiency and optimization will continue to reach new heights for brands. 

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity