If you didn’t notice, there’s been an interesting thing going on State-side about crypto. It all started off with the 2022 Superbowl (well done the Rams and commiserations to the Bengals), where crypto ads were more present than any other ads.
Despite the hype, none of the cryptocurrency commercials at the big game made any attempt to actually sell people on anything other than spending more money on crypto. LeBron James was there (with his de-aged younger self) to promote Crypto.com. Larry David compared missing out on crypto to passing up the wheel, the moon landing, or the idea of portable music for FTX. eToro sold being part of the crypto community as a new wave of “social investing.” Budweiser’s Bud Light Next was promoted with NFT drops. And Coinbase’s bouncing QR code offered free Bitcoin for customers who signed up — which, while lacking celebrity cameos, was still among the most talked-about ads of the night. All told, it was perhaps the biggest debut yet for crypto on the national stage, surpassing even the seemingly endless Matt Damon ads that haunted the NFL’s regular season. Some of those ads were remarkably effective. Coinbase’s commercial, in particular, was a standout, with the company reporting an astonishing 20 million hits on its website in one minute — enough traffic to temporarily crash the app and the most the company had ever had. The following morning also saw Coinbase appear as the number two most downloaded iPhone app on the App Store.
When you imagine that a Superbowl ad in 2022 is costing $14 million a minute, using that time to just flash a QR code was pretty impressive. It’s also led to a run-in between what Coinbase was thinking versus their PR firms’ pitching. Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, says that a bunch of PR firms made pitches which were all standard stuff …
– we bought it not knowing what we would do
– initially an outside agency pitched us a bunch of standard super bowl ad ideas
– I didn't like any of them (standard super bowl ads tend to be gimmicky, celebrity cameo driven, going for a laugh etc)
— Brian Armstrong – barmstrong.eth (@brian_armstrong) February 21, 2022
This message was not received well by the marketing agency who pitched the idea (Kirsten Cavello, CEO of the Martin Agency).
It was actually inspired by presentations our agency showed your team on 8/18 (pages 19-24) and 10/7 (pages 11-18) with ad concepts for the Super Bowl with floating QR codes on a blank screen.
— Kristen Cavallo (@Cavallokristen) February 21, 2022
To which Kate Rouch, CMO of Coinbase [former Facebook marketeer (#justsaying)], replied:
5/5: Breaking up is hard to do. I wish the team at The Martin Agency all the best.
— Kate Rouch (@kate_rouch) February 22, 2022
Oh dear. Seven months into her new big job and that’s a pretty bad public gaff but hey, it’s only media.
Anyways, why am I posting this here?
Because former VP at Goldman Sachs Jason Mikula notes that 2022 is the year that crypto has gone mainstream, as have many others. Is it the dotcom boom repeated or a new world order? Who knows, but when crypto is all over the biggest sports event in America, you know something has changed so, in the spirit of sharing, here are the other big crypto ad spends this year (text by Jason).
FTX’s minute-long ($14 million) spot features comedian Larry David, best known as co-creator of Seinfeld and star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The bulk of the advert depicts David as various characters criticizing the viability of breakthrough ideas over the course of history — the wheel, the toilet, the Declaration of Independence.
After the setup, 45 seconds in, it cuts to the modern day, with a spokesperson holding a phone (it’s an app!) telling David “It’s FTX — it’s a safe, easy way to get into crypto” — answering the question, what is this?, and spelling out the value prop by countering perceived barriers to adoption: crypto is unsafe, crypto is too complicated.
The advert ends with a title card that encourages viewers: “Don’t miss out on crypto, NFTs, the next big thing.”
Crypto.com’s ad features present-day Lebron James talking to his younger self. Set in young Lebron’s bedroom in 2003, it implicitly suggests crypto is the future — showing artifacts of the past (giant boombox, physical CDs) as young Lebron marvels about a future of cordless headphones and electric cars.
When young Lebron asks his older self if he’s ready for the big leagues, present day Lebron responds, “If you want to make history, you got to call your own shots.” The language speaks to Crypto.com’s brand positioning, which heavily leans in to longstanding American narratives of the self-made man and pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps.
Crypto.com’s tag line, “Fortune Favors the Brave,” flashes on the screen briefly, before the ad culminates with the company’s logo flanked by the Apple and Android app store badges.
eToro isn’t, strictly speaking, a crypto app. It started life as a foreign exchange trading platform. Its popularity starting taking off in 2010, when it introduced its OpenBook “social” trading platform. Think of it something akin to Robinhood with components of Reddit’s WallStreetBets or “FinTwit” (finance twitter) built in.
eToro’s killer feature was the ability to “copy” top performing investors’ portfolios. The Israeli trading platform was founded in 2007, launching in the US only in 2018.
The company’s 30 second advert speaks to this and tries to have it both ways — appealing to both crypto and stock traders. It also identifies its target: those who are interested, but don’t know where to start.
The ad leverages on-screen graphics to demonstrate social features users are likely to be familiar with — liking and commenting, as they would on Twitter or Instagram. It also includes a couple subtle nods to crypto memes: “to the moon,” a Shiba Inu.
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