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Recent years has seen the meteoric, albeit volatile growth of cryptocurrency as it continues to transition from obscure to mainstream. Nothing has epitomized this shift more than its headline role in this year’s Super Bowl — with a number of industry heavyweights developing big budget campaigns specifically for the event (along with a very unique — and smaller budget — approach from Coinbase). While crypto remains a highly divisive topic, for those invested in its future it represents an improved, more modern, and decentralized way of managing finances. But, for the broader population, skepticism remains around its safety and stability as a long-term investment.
As a relatively new segment in the financial services sector, we were excited to see how its advertising would fare; would it symbolize a shift in sentiment, heralding a new mindset toward the category? Or would the ads struggle to resonate in a category which remains confusing and downright scary for many? We use 3Cs to predict success:
You would have had to have been living under a rock to not have heard Crypto.com’s name pop up in headlines over recent years. From its reported $700 million naming rights takeover of the iconic Staples Center in LA to the launch of its first global campaign starring A-lister Matt Damon, the “world’s fastest growing cryptocurrency platform” has certainly moved heaven and earth to stake its claim for being the cryptocurrency destination of choice.
Following on from its hotly-debated launch campaign titled “Fortune Favors the Brave”, Crypto.com leveraged star power yet again in the form of NBA legend LeBron James — well, two of him to be precise. Set in a teenage LeBron’s bedroom, the NBA star converses with his younger self, educating him on technological advances since 2003 and offering career advice in the process. The ad attempts to convey the message that while you can’t accurately predict the future, you have to take risks to get ahead.
Despite the deep and inspirational approach, the ad struggled to strongly impact the brand. Though perhaps not as far-fetched as the brand’s first campaign which drew parallels between crypto and space exploration, people still struggled to see the ad’s relevance to Crypto.com and the category in general.
Cryptocurrency challenger brand FTX went down a different route. While based around the same idea that humans are limited in their ability to accurately predict the future, it brought to life people’s skepticism toward cryptocurrency in a more light-hearted way. Featuring Curb your Enthusiasm star Larry David, the humorous story took viewers on a journey through history — depicting Larry as a contrarian of any, and every, major development of our time (the lightbulb, moon landing, Walkman, etc.). In the present day, Larry also opposes cryptocurrency — brushing it off as just another fad while guaranteeing that he’s “never wrong” about this kind of thing.
People found the ad much more attention-grabbing and clever than Crypto.com’s Super Bowl entry, with Larry’s quirky humor and amusing take on important moments in history proving highly enjoyable. Despite this, many still found the message vague and not clearly linked to FTX — ultimately considering the claims of the brand offering a “safe and easy way to get into crypto” lacking credibility.
8 years after bidding farewell to its iconic baby mascot — a mainstay of the brand’s Super Bowl communications from 2007 to 2014 — the E*Trade baby made a triumphant return in 2022. While a number of Super Bowl advertisers prioritized celebrity endorsements as a way of getting eyeballs on screen, E*Trade highlighted the tremendous upside of investing in distinctive branding properties.
Building the story itself around senior business executives at E*Trade attempting to persuade the baby to return from its rural outpost not only aided recognition, but also leveraged nostalgia associated with the long-running campaign. The result was an intense emotional reaction and big smiles being left on people’s faces.
As a regular spender in the finance/cryptocurrency category, eToro’s surreal story of a man joining the “hip” crowd (cloud?) by asking for advice through the platform achieved stronger brand recognition than either Crypto.com or FTX. Still, the ad was a far-cry from what people expected from the brand – featuring neither a more rational appeal to rates and fees, or the presence of celebrities similarly to previous campaigns.
The upbeat cover of “Fly Me To the Moon” and story of a man “getting off the ground” (in trading terms, so-to-speak), struggled to elicit a strong emotional response – despite people learning that you could get advice on “social investing” through the app.
For an already complex category — with heavy consumer skepticism — the core aim of advertising should be to alleviate pre-existing barriers to adoption. In this respect, FTX and Crypto.com missed the mark. Similar claims of “fortune favoring the brave” and “hurry before you miss out!” only served to exacerbate existing trepidations toward crypto — essentially relying on “FOMO” rather than educating potential investors about the benefits.
While we didn’t test the Coinbase ad, it followed a similar path. The QR code drove considerable chatter amongst the marketing fraternity, with heated debate about whether it was genius or moronic. While marketers will always have an abundance of short-term behavioral metrics at their disposal if wanting to prove a campaign was successful (website visits, app downloads, etc.), the reality is that Coinbase’s spot did nothing to build associations and feelings which will help generate favorable predisposition in the future. It also didn’t create any distinctive branding properties, which is particularly important as the category continues to mature.
This is a self-funded case study using our Ad Testing solution.