Cryptocurrency adverts for seven platforms and retailers have been banned following “red alert” concerns about consumer awareness of the “complex and volatile” products.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) said the bans followed proactive monitoring into crypto-asset advertising. They will also form part of a wider project that is expected to shape specific guidance around advertising these products in 2022.
The ASA also said it would continue to review crypto-asset adverts over the next few months, with the intention of gathering information that can contribute to future enforcement and guidance for advertisers. It will be looking specifically at cryptocurrencies as part of this, but will also include NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and fan tokens in the analysis.
The banned adverts included a Papa John’s pizza chain website promotion and a Twitter post promoting cryptocurrency, as well as ads from trading platforms eToro and Coinburp and a number of other cryptocurrency exchange firms.
All were banned for irresponsibly taking advantage of consumers’ inexperience and for failing to illustrate the risk of the investment.
The Papa John’s website ad saw the restaurant chain partnering with Luno Global to offer £10 worth of free Bitcoin for every pizza bought via a special deal.
Papa John’s said they had a long-running association with cryptocurrency, dating back to May 2010. Because of this, it did not believe that its partnership with Luno was unusual and said the collaboration did not endorse cryptocurrency or its suitability for investment.
The chain did acknowledge that some customers would have more knowledge of cryptocurrency than others.
However, the ASA said that using pizza to promote a cryptocurrency account encouraged consumers to engage in a high-risk investment without consideration, trivialising a serious and potentially costly financial decision.
“Cryptoassets are a red-alert priority issue for us, so we’re conducting proactive monitoring and interventions where we find issues,” said ASA’s director of complaints and investigations Miles Lockwood.
“Our rulings published today and over the next few weeks will shape follow-up enforcement work in the new year to bring all cryptoassets ads into line with our expectations and will form the basis of updated guidance.”
He explained that while consumers need to know about the risks of investing in cryptoassets, companies should also make sure their ads do not take advantage of consumers’ lack of awareness around the “complex and volatile products”.
“We won’t hesitate to take action against ads that break our rules,” Lockwood added. “We encourage anyone with any concerns about ads they’ve seen to get in touch.”