- Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong tweeted that the company's Super Bowl ad was created by the crypto exchange.
- An ad agency CEO claims her firm created the concept.
- Coinbase CMO Kate Rouch says that a different firm conceptualized the ad, prompting Armstrong to update his Twitter thread.
Coinbase's QR code advertisement generated a lot of buzz during this year's Super Bowl.
Now, the company and ad executives are arguing over who created it.
In a Twitter thread on Sunday, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong asserted that the idea for a floating QR code—without any identifying details about the company until viewers scanned it and were taken to the website—came from inside the company after it rejected the pitches it had received.
Kristen Cavallo, CEO of The Martin Agency, claimed otherwise. "It was actually inspired by presentations our agency showed your team," she responded on Monday, citing presentation pages and dates in August and October. (Cavallo has not yet replied to a Decrypt request to see the presentation.)
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
Coinbase Chief Marketing Officer Kate Rouch, who took over the role in August, then chimed in. According to Rouch, while The Martin Agency was one of several firms to pitch Coinbase on including a QR code, the ideas weren't "conceptually what [Coinbase was] looking for." Only after another firm, Accenture Interactive, "came up with the idea of inserting a code in a popular meme did we green light the idea," she said.
A Coinbase spokesperson told Decrypt the meme in question was a bouncing DVD logo, meant to look like a screensaver.
Rouch's assertion, however, contradicted Armstrong, who had said, "No ad agency would have done this ad." According to Rouch, "The fit with our creative partner Accenture Interactive (AI) was seamless—so much to that extent our CEO actually thought we were a single team when presenting work."
On Monday, in an apparent response to Rouch's tweet, Armstrong stated that he "didn't fully realize" contributions from outside Coinbase: "Although we didn’t work with a traditional ad agency I’d be remiss not to mention the creative firm we worked with who actually created the ad, commissioned the song, got the clearances etc etc."
The Super Bowl, watched by an audience of over 100 million people in the U.S., served as a coming out party for cryptocurrency companies. FTX, Crypto.com, eToro and Coinbase all paid an estimated $6.5 million per 30 seconds to run advertisements.
Though FTX leaned on comedian and actor Larry David for its spot and Crypto.com featured LeBron James in its ad, Coinbase's minimalist approach drew raves. Adweek, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and the Clio Awards all named it the best commercial of the 2022 Super Bowl.
According to Coinbase, the ad also had the desired effect of bringing people to the exchange. Rouch wrote that more than 20 million people tried to use the QR code within the 60 seconds of its runtime. The response was so strong that it temporarily crashed the site.