‘Crypto Bowl’ Ads Feature FOMO Investing and Low Wattage Stars

If the crypto industry has been working hard to overcome public skepticism, the ads companies in it ran in Super Bowl 56 — hyped as the Crypto Bowl — probably didn’t help that much.

Instead, if any of the estimated 91.6 million viewers who tuned in to watch the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday were paying attention and not getting another slice of pizza, they got more of the same messaging from the big players in crypto. “Don’t miss out,” prices are going to “moon” and “invest with us for some freebies.”

Not a lot of substance. And surprisingly for an industry given to hyperbole and excess, the barest soupcon of style.

Super Bowl ads are, as ever, nearly as big an attention draw as the game itself, especially on the Monday afterward. So it’s worth looking not just at the ads themselves, but what they say about how the cryptocurrency industry sees its potential customers as it tries to break into the mainstream’s attention and its investment dollars.

FOMO and Freebies

Three of the exchanges went straight to the fear of missing out, or FOMO, with FTX actually using “don’t miss out” as its call to action.

Read more: Down $10,000 In One Hour? What Happened to Bitcoin This Weekend?

The thing is, FOMO is roundly criticized in crypto circles as a way to make bad investing decisions. It is generally paired with FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt — as the way inexperienced traders often buy high and sell low due to crypto wildly volatile prices.

See: Burned By Bitcoin: How Crypto Has Scorched The Investors Who Can Least Afford It

Start with FTX’s spot, featuring a hapless Larry David missing out on investing in everything from the lightbulb to the Walkman. The message was clear: “You’re a sucker if you don’t invest in this.” Crypto.com went there as well, to an extent, with LeBron James telling his younger self to “take his shot” — which is much the same thing.

Then there’s eToro, which set its ad to the tune of “Fly Me To the Moon” — very clearly referencing the crypto industry phrasing “mooning” as in, this coin is going to explode in value. Something you heard, along with “Lambo” — as in, you’ll drive a Lamborghini — back in the bad old ICO days.

So, “Fly Me To the Moon” was an interesting direction for a stock and crypto exchange which has a focus on “social trading” in which newcomers can follow experienced and successful investors’ portfolios — without actually knowing anything about the market until they build up experience. Not that the ad was very clear about the whole social trading angle, which can also be viewed as a way for newcomers to educate themselves about crypto investing before jumping in too deep.

Finally, there was Coinbase’s minimalist ad, teasing people into visiting its website blind, where they found a promise of $15 in bitcoin and $3 million in prizes for signing up — essentially a shotgun approach to finding people willing to sign up to invest for some freebies and a shot at being “in it to win it.”

What was distinctly missing was any suggestion that crypto is a good investment. Which is, admittedly, a hard sell when bitcoin is still far, far down from its November high near $70,000.

Low Wattage

Beyond David and James, A-list celebrities — something so expected that the world’s largest exchange, Binance, ran a campaign criticizing the use of celebrity spokespeople promoting crypto, with the tagline “do your own research” — also seemed to be out of vogue.

(Of course, Binance turned to a Miami Heat basketball star Jimmy Butler to tell us that.)

Keep in mind, in the recent past, FTX has turned football legend Tom Brady into not just an advertising spokesperson but an investor, and Crypto.com has trotted out Matt Damon in an ad so talked-about — and criticized — that it was eviscerated by TV’s “South Park.”

Meanwhile, the most recognizable name in crypto, Coinbase, turned to a QR code as its spokesperson in a commercial that violated the core tenet of advertising: Tell the viewer your company name.

An interesting tactic, Ad Age noted while reporting that “demand on the site was so high, some got error messages.” The company’s app also shot up to No. 2 on Apple’s App Store.

A little volatility, as always in the crypto business, is par for the course.