Decrypt’s Art, Fashion, and Entertainment Hub.
Though Facebook’s ban remains in force, Google’s decision will bring ads for ICOs, blockchain startups and a raft of new shitcoins back onto our computer screens. Let’s take a gander through the annals of crypto-commercial history and remind ourselves exactly what we’ve been missing.
What is it? Bitconnect joins the ranks of Jimmy Savile, Kevin Spacey, and Bill Cosby as a “popular thing that is obviously unsavory in retrospect.” If the late-2017 ICO boom led us deep into the nine circles of hell, Bitconnect was crypto Lucifer, frozen in a lake of its own tears at Level 9. For the uninitiated: Bitconnect is widely regarded as a Ponzi scheme. It raised millions for its handful of developers. It collapsed under pressure from regulators, losing 65 percent of its value overnight. And best of all, its promotional campaign featured a screaming egg spokesman named Carlos Matos.
The ad: In the above advert, Bitconnect takes an unspoken truth about cryptocurrencies—that they’re just get-rich-quick schemes for the unscrupulous—and makes it into a clarion call, undergirded by respectable-sounding platitudes about financial freedom. Observe the disconnect: As a disembodied voice champions Bitconnect as a “transparent [and] self-regulated financial system,” money explodes from suckers’ computer screens. As the voiceover waxes lyrical about “cryptocurrency revolution,” a black Bitconnect sun shines through a rainfall of dollar bills. Accompanying the phrase “stable income and financial freedom” is a man literally rolling in several 10-foot piles of gold medallions.
What is it? Centratech touted a “Centra Wallet” and a “Centra Card” that would, supposedly, enable customers to effortlessly transform crypto-assets into regular money. On the back of a seedy $32 million ICO, however, co-founders Sohrab “Sam” Sharma and Robert Farkas were duly charged with fraud. Says the SEC: “Sharma and Farkas created fictional executives with impressive biographies, posted false or misleading marketing materials to Centra’s website, and paid celebrities to tout the ICO on social media.”
The ad: Less an advert, and more Floyd “Money” Mayweather repeating his own name for two minutes as he attempts to demonstrate the Centra Wallet on his iPhone. But rather than, you know, actually demonstrate a conversion in real time, Money vaguely announces the words “Centra Card” and “Bitcoin,” hands a regular-looking debit card to a cashier while pretending to do something on his phone, then flashes a smirk at the camera, drawling “See I told ya.” Then, just for luck, he says “Centra Card” and Bitcoin” once more. He’s doing “big things,” he assures us. For all of the talk that the Centratech team “paid celebrities to tout the ICO on social media,” it appears Money’s celebrity status made little impact: the ad boasts a whopping...759 views.
What is it? Cryptocalls Elite was a Telegram group that, pretty flagrantly, advertised itself as a kind of wholesome, family-friendly pump ‘n’ dump scheme. The game plan: join the private group (via Telegram), buy a wad of a new currency before it’s available to mainstream investors, let the price inflate as those investors buy up, then sell it off for a massive return.
The ad: This ad is so, so weird. The narrator sounds like he should be plugging a Colgate-sponsored charity campaign for homeless orphans. The animation, too, is easy as hell on the eyes. Gorgeous, in fact. It’s all done in the “draw my life” style made popular by twee YouTube influencers. What jars, then, is that all this wholesome patter is in the service of finding accomplices to something decidedly less wholesome— securities fraud. The ad even features a cutely rendered animation of, er, a physically shaking defrauded investor. It’s as if ISIS hired Martha Stewart to do voice work for its “Behead all the homosexuals in Raqqa” scheme.
What is it? The techno-rapture? A dirty scam? A worthy competitor to Ethereum? Nothing? Whatever the hell EOS is, it’s coming, and fast. Somewhere. Maybe into a gutter. Nevertheless, EOS—at its heart, an Ethereum-like “smart contracts” platform that one day aims to be, gasp, “usable,”—raised an astonishing $4 billion in nine months in an ICO starting late 2017.
The ad: This advert is cleverly disguised as an incredibly boring sales talk. Male Ivanka Trump and paper bag-lookalike Dan Larimer take turns describing, vaguely, how blockchain is great, before the big reveal: EOS will make it even greater. It’s that well-worn tactic of “speak corporate buzzwords over uplifting orchestral music.” It’s like Michael Bay directed your dad’s mid-afternoon conference call with somebody called Ian, but forgot to edit.
Seth Meyers’ Fake Commercial
What is it? This one’s just pretty funny. It’s a joke, by the way.