Crypto Super Bowl ads plague my commercial breaks

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The Super Bowl ends and the commercials begin. A serene setting, celebrity endorsement and vague promises of the future – the signs of disaster are imminent. Bets are placed and shots are promised if the ad shown on screen is what we fear it will be. Then the buzzword drops – “crypto” – and the room erupts in groans. This cycle would repeat itself too many times throughout Super Bowl commercial breaks, a space traditionally reserved for the most expensive and hopefully innovative commercials. At the end of the night, my only option was to face the burning lights of the future and find an excuse to leave. Super Bowl cryptocurrency ads tried to sell the future and failed, at least for me.

Two ads from two different companies sum up the issues for me. The first was by FTX, a Bahamas-based cryptocurrency exchange company. It featured famed comedian Larry David playing a character who resisted several major innovations of human civilization, starting with driving and ending with a crypto app. I confess that I am fascinated by the implication that David is an immortal – still in the ripe old age of 60 – who has existed since the dawn of civilization to impede its evolution long before the Philistines or Luddites. However, comparing an app for cryptocurrency to accomplishments like landing humans on the moon or indoor plumbing led me to believe the company should curb its enthusiasm.

This theme of crypto being a monumental shift in history was prevalent in the second commercial. Website crypto.com — a Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange app — ran an ad featuring “The Martian” star Matt Damon. In it, Damon walks through simulations of humanity’s achievements. These are the corridors of the vague and the confirmed: an unidentified marine explorer who apparently never reached his goal, a mountaineer, a Wright brother piloting the first plane, a couple kissing in a nightclub and some futuristic visions astronauts – while Damon gets poetic about those who “almost” made history and those who actually did. The ad ends with a photo of humanity’s next frontier and the reason Damon was chosen for this ad – Mars. The crypto.com logo is displayed on the red planet, likening the website to the next stage of interstellar travel. However, like the exhibits Damon walks through, the intrinsic value of crypto is always simulated, and so is the human connection the ad is trying to establish. The actor, the company and the advertisement are presented literally and figuratively as the most down-to-earth.

In addition to this advertising oversaturation, the way crypto is presented is also seen as irresponsible. The ads and both companies paint crypto as a surefire step into the future, but the legally required fine print, blink and miss you, dispels that notion. FTX’s announcement ends with a giant text that reads “DON’T MISS THE NEXT BIG THING”. while its smaller disclaimer at the bottom reads: “This is not an investment recommendation. Cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, are subject to significant risk and may not be suitable for you. The specific wording reminds drug ads listing side effects, but those are actually read aloud, not just quickly displayed for two seconds The disclaimer for crypto.com is a bit longer, but it seems dismissive of risks in the crypto market, advising consumers to simply “…consider your risk appetite” However, no matter how the risks are worded, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

This theme of the future, so near but so boring, was present in all these crypto advertisements. The price to pay to be featured between Super Bowl plays is monumental, so advertisers are making sure their time counts. This has resulted in amazing advertisements that hold the entire nation like a captive audience. However, when several different crypto companies all come forward claiming that their the company will be the one that will take us to the future, that their connection to crypto will make history, the impact is blunt. So many bright futures make them all dark, like a choose-your-own novel where the best ending is to close the book.

Daily Arts Contributor Saarthak Johri can be reached at [email protected].

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