Reddit Drops Pro-Pot Ads, Says Just Say Now

  |  August 31, 2010   |  Comments

An anti-Digg rebellion has cost the pro-marijuana group its ad freedom.

Reddit is no longer running free ads for pro-pot-legalization group Just Say Now. The social news site has become the benefactor of a rebellion among users of rival site Digg, generating an unexpected traffic surge to Reddit. So, Reddit told Just Say Now the site will no longer run its controversial ads promoting a petition to "end the war on marijuana."


Last week, Reddit parent company Conde Nast said it would not approve Just Say Now's ads, noting that it did not want to benefit financially from the pro-legalization cause. But, after the people behind Just Say Now complained publicly that the decision smacked of censorship, Reddit decided to run the ads anyway, free of charge.

From August 27 through August 30, Reddit ran between $10,000 and $15,000 worth of Just Say Now ad impressions, according to Michael Whitney, digital strategy director at Firedoglake, which is running the campaign along with Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He said the group did not plan on spending that amount of money with Reddit when it originally inquired about running ads on the site. Whitney is a member of the Just Say Now board of advisors and is running the group's online organizing efforts.

"They rotated them out last night because they're getting slammed from traffic from the Digg revolt," Whitney told ClickZ News this afternoon. In addition to ensuring Reddit has enough server capacity to withstand the traffic onslaught, the site most likely wants to capitalize on that traffic by serving paid ads rather than pro bono ones. Reddit did not respond to interview requests for this story.

The traffic onslaught is coming from Digg, where users of the social news site have expressed their dissatisfaction with a site redesign by posting links to Reddit, a less popular rival.

ClickZ News did spot a Just Say Now ad running this afternoon in Reddit's marijuana-related site section. While Reddit is serving ads there for advertisers like Tivo and Seventh Generation products on Amazon, the site is rotating a variety of house ads including creative promoting its streaming radio station, Radio Reddit, and images of animals in place of ads. "Instead of an ad, here's a puppy," reads one ad replacement.

"We're happy with what we received from Reddit," said Whitney. "We got a ton of traffic, and more than a thousand signups from Reddit users, and publicity that you can't buy anywhere." He continued, "As a result, we've made some really great connections with the Reddit community," including people who run marijuana-related sections of the site, he said. "We will work with them and hopefully have a close bond to be able to organize."


Facebook Censorship Drive Sign-ups

Just Say Now has also benefitted from what it's calling Facebook censorship. When Facebook refused to continue running the group's ads featuring a pot leaf, Just Say Now retaliated by using a "Facebook Censors Marijuana" rallying cry on its Facebook page, and using Facebook's anti-pot leaf stance as a way to generate even more signups. The group's Facebook page - and ads running elsewhere - link to a separate Facebook censorship-related petition, and declare, "Tell Facebook to Stop Censoring Marijuana."

The group has collected around 30,000 signups for that separate Facebook petition, along with around 40,000 for the original pro-legalization petition asking President Obama to "end the war on marijuana." The campaign is aimed at passing marijuana legalization measures in California, Arizona, Oregon, and South Dakota.

According to Whitney, after running the leaf-laced ads for around a week and a half, Just Say Now worked directly with Facebook to optimize the campaign. At that point, the social site just said no to the universal symbol for toking weed. Since then, the organization has ceased running Facebook ads altogether, mainly because the creative without the pot leaf did not perform as well. "By and far the best performing ads had pot leaves in them," said Whitney. "Facebook told us directly when we were working with them on our ads that images are the most important factor."

Another ironic twist: On Facebook, Just Say Now was able to target ads to users of the Pot Farm gaming app, as well as people who like NORML, an organization dedicated to reform marijuana laws.

Meanwhile, Google is endearing itself to legalization supporters. The firm is allowing the marijuana leaf to appear in Just Say Now display ads running through its network (see ad image at top left); the group is also running text ads through Google. Those ads are being targeted to libertarian sites as well as other pot-related sites like Toke of the Town.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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