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Was the Coinbase Super Bowl ad Pure Genius or Pure Rebellion?


Coinbase Global (COIN) ran and ultra minimalist ad during the super bowl that featured a color changing QR code that bounced around the screen reminiscent of the bouncing DVD logo that we all know too well. Super bowl watchers weren’t prompted to do anything. There were no instructions. There were no indicators. And yet, so many super bowl watchers scanned the QR code that it ultimately crashed the Coinbase servers under the stress of so much traffic. According to the Clio awards, this was one of the most successful super bowl ads of all time. A panel of 20 jurors awarded Coinbase with the coveted Super Clio for its diversion from the star-studded high production value ads created by the field of super bowl advertisers.

The Success of Coinbase’s Translates to Real Stock Value.

Coinbase chief product officer Surojit Chatterjee said on Twitter that the company had seen “more traffic than we’ve ever encountered,” forcing it to “throttle traffic for a few minutes.” During the past 45 days, Coinbase’s Stock has taken a beating as crypto prices have fallen. For the time being, renewed interest from a creative ad has peaked the interest of so many super bowl watchers that the stock price is up over 6%, just since trading opened Monday morning after the Big game.

Arguably, stock prices for crypto wallets have been tied to the performance of volatile crypto prices. It remains to be seen if the ultra minimalist ad and an offer for $15 in free crypto will be enough to bring a rush of new users to revive interest in crypto and create any lasting value. Last year (2021) set an all-time record for new first time crypto investors. But as soon as some of the largest asset names in crypto started to fall, trading volume from new users disappeared quickly.

Was Coinbase’s Ad was about Differentiation or Departure?

Although the panel of jurors decided Coinbase was the clear winner of the Super Clio this year, not everybody loved the departure from high production value advertising. Many viewers posted negative feedback on social media about everything from server problems at Coinbase, to an annoying color changing square bouncing around their screen. A lot of viewers just plain “didn’t get” the ad.

In a blog post, Coinbase CMO Kate Rouch said the brand wanted to try “something different” on the Super Bowl—”a playful, low-production nod to a popular Internet meme that invites action and discussion both in the living room, and on social media. Coinbase worked with Accenture Interactive’s creative team to create the almost full minute of black screen with a colored QR code bouncing around. The 60 second ad cost right around 13 million dollars to air.

Does the rebellious tone of the Coinbase ad exemplify a larger battle?

For many younger investors crypto and NFT speculation is about operating outside of the restrictions of federal regulations. Ty Roney (Crypto Investor, Bored Ape), on a recent Firetoss podcast, talked about taking big risks to move beyond the middle class and operate outside of federal government control by investing heavily in NFTs. Sixteen percent of Americans say they have personally invested in, traded or used cryptocurrencies, according to a Pew Research Center survey from September.  With an influx of new investors, the federal government is trying to create regulations around trading and taxation.   Nearly every crypto executive has appeared in front of congress at this point to argue for a free unregulated system.

The importance of the Coinbase ads in the Super Bowl may have been more than just artistic departure.  Maybe it was a statement about how crypto is going to be different.  It is going to stand for something different.  Giving away millions of dollars in crypto currency in $15 increments could have be less about shock and awe advertising and more about enlisting a larger part of the population in the ongoing conversation.