Interviewing influencers and project leaders on the complicated world of promoting crypto.
It’s a good week for mainstreaming -- two big tech ad platforms, Google and Facebook, have finally, albeit grudgingly, accepted that maybe not every cryptocurrency-related project is inherently criminal. Well done, big tech.
Google recently announced it is updating its “Financial products and services policy to… allow the advertisement of cryptocurrency-related business and services.”
Starting August 3, advertisers for exchanges and wallets in the U.S. have been allowed to advertise with Google ads provided they are registered entities, and they pass the Cryptocurrency Exchanges and Wallets certification with Google. Ads for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and other sales are still prohibited.
Facebook outdid their big advertising platform rival by one week.
On June 26, Facebook announced that they have revisited their policy banning “prohibit ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings, and cryptocurrency.”
In a post, Facebook states, “... we’ll be updating our policy to allow ads that promote cryptocurrency and related content from pre-approved advertisers.”
Again, the operative point is Facebook retains the right to approve all projects, even those that had been approved to advertise with Facebook before.
“...not everyone who wants to advertise will be able to do so. But we’ll listen to feedback, look at how well this policy works and continue to study this technology so that, if necessary, we can revise it over time,” they said in a statement.
Advertising Crypto For Mainstream Awareness
Anyone who worked with blockchain projects in 2017 knows that advertising was a highly specialized, temperamental, and inconstant art form. We asked for comments from blockchain project leaders who have dealt with advertising in 2021 and the more restrictive years past.
Marie Tatibouet, CMO at Gate.io, recalled the far more restrictive environment of 2017, when big ad platforms were trying to curtail a crypto industry perceived as dominated by bad actors.
“2017 was a pretty interesting year… Everything was about ICOs and so many scammers managed to pocket life-changing money because of that. However, things have changed and now we have sophisticated offerings like DeFi, NFT, GameFi, etc. Crypto marketing now is a lot more product-oriented than buy my token plz,” Tatibouet said.
Ben Weiss, CEO of CoinFlip, believes that opening up advertising opportunities is an important part of mainstreaming to a crossover audience -- and that a general audience is already receptive.
“Scrolling through social media and watching TV, it’s not surprising to see an ad from traditional financial companies or from payment processing and investment apps like Robinhood and Venmo. We’re so used to advertising that we accept these ads from household name companies as part of life. Placing ads on the same platforms as traditional financial companies is an important step in mainstream awareness and adoption of cryptocurrency products and services,” Weiss said.
Ben Pousty, US Marketing Lead for Bitstamp, believes that the opening of Google Ads and Facebook advertising policies is another sign of mainstreaming.
“Google partially lifting their crypto ad ban is yet another indication of the industry’s growing maturity and mainstream acceptance. Google has set a precedent that many other large advertising platforms are sure to follow in establishing specific regulatory requirements for crypto companies wishing to use their venues,” Pousty said.
Haider Rafique, Global CMO at OKCoin, commented that although the recent changes in policy at Facebook and Google represent progress, it also underscores the limitations still placed on crypto advertising.
“Now there is more clarity on what you can and cannot do in advertising a crypto product such as a more formal certification process. Google has clear guidance that companies can only market in the US and Japan and that moving outside those regions can lead to an account ban. Twitter does not have such bans, but they discourage advertisers from talking about ICOs and similar speculative campaigns. They will also not let crypto assets themselves advertise on Twitter,” Rafique said.
Matthew Gould, Co-Founder and CEO of Unstoppable Domains, looks forward to a time when blockchain projects are less dependent on big tech platforms.
"Google may be a dominant force in web advertising today, but many crypto companies are looking toward a future where the decentralized web allows the freedom of information without centralized gatekeepers. The internet is changing as blockchain domain names and Web3 become more accessible. We're already seeing this shift gain momentum, with more than 800,000 NFT domain names registered on Unstoppable Domains to date. These domains open up access to a world beyond Google and antiquated web browsing and advertising, where individuals and crypto companies can have full ownership and control of their domains," Gould said.
Owain Powell, Senior Digital Marketing Consultant at ADAO, pointed out that even as Google and Facebook make their policies on advertising more liberal toward crypto, there will always be problems as these big platforms work out their AI for screening ad content.
“All I can say is that this will be a massive relief for those bidding on Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which is often misconstrued by Google as ExperienceCoin (EPC). My client, an Energy Performance Training Company, has had their EPC ads banned for over a year now,” Powell said. “The appeals process by Google is flawed, and their AI is still very much in a learning/beta phase… It's proved to be a massively frustrating exercise both for the client and myself to get their ads running,” Powell said.
Influencers In Crypto
If networked advertising is one arrow in a blockchain project’s quiver, then influencers are another useful shot at spreading the word for blockchain projects. Just a few words from certain globally famous billionaires have been known to move markets, so undeniably, the formula sometimes works -- and is perhaps somewhat more independent.
Ben Armstrong, Founder of BitBoy Crypto, boasts the largest audience of any single crypto influencer with nearly 5 million followers, primarily on Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Bitboy consciously cultivates a mainstream audience by offering accessible crypto information.
‘We boast the most mainstream audience in all of crypto as we are approaching 5 million total followers across all platforms. We appeal to the mainstream audience because our channel focuses on breaking crypto down on an easy-to-understand level. We never speak over people’s heads,” Armstrong said.
Bitboy has promoted Cartesi, a layer 2 Ethereum project for which he is an advisor. Armstrong takes the role of influencers in the crypto space very seriously, for the simple reason that the crypto world is still small enough that influencers can have a sometimes immediate impact on prices.
“I understand the impact I have on the markets, and it’s something I take very seriously. I pray for the day when we cover a project, and the video has zero impact on the price. Unfortunately, for now, the crypto markets are so small that if we cover a project and bring it awareness, often the price will be affected. One day it won’t be like that when the markets are large enough. The larger my channel has gotten, the less I have covered small crypto projects because I understand that impact. Unfortunately, there are people out there like Elon Musk who abuse that power. They understand how they affect markets and abuse investors. People like Musk give crypto a bad name,” Armstrong said.
Jillian Godsil, crypto reporter, author, podcaster, and influencer who is listed among the top women in blockchain, has seen a blossoming of audience since 2020 and uses her platform for grassroots activism.
“I do a lot of activism in the homelessness area, and I’m very against the bullying banks – I also advocate for diversity, so you find me on lots of different platforms… My crypto audience has also blossomed during lockdown. I think more than ever, people are looking at alternative ways of doing business, of protecting themselves, and giving their children a chance to succeed. I think the old ways are broken, and we need to find new ways of working together…,” Godsil said.
Richard Heart, Founder at Pulsechain, has about 200,000 followers on YouTube and Twitter and has found his platform is an effective way to promote his own projects.
“Paid promotions are not as effective as word of mouth in this industry. If you can build a strong community that solemnly believes in you and your product, it's only a matter of time until they spread the word and the conversation ignites like wildfire,” Heart said.
The advertising policies of Google and Facebook are not remotely trying to stay on the cutting edge of public perception. The pump and dump ICOs of several years ago happened before most of the new retail investors knew what crypto was, so the fact that these big tech platforms are opening up to advertising -- on a provisional basis -- shows that they are capable, at least, of detecting which way the winds of public opinion are blowing.
However, the changes in restrictions are another step toward mainstreaming. Not in a flashy way that’s going to pump any one coin, but in a way that gives all projects more of a chance of competing.
What remains to be seen is who in the blockchain industry will capitalize most effectively on newly opened opportunities to grab mainstream awareness.
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