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UK Authority on ‘Red Alert’ After Banning Several Crypto Ads

The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned seven advertisements related to cryptocurrencies and intends to update guidance next year.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ads, “for irresponsibly taking advantage of consumers’ inexperience and for failing to illustrate the risk of the investment.”

In most cases, the companies themselves were found to be responsible for the violation, having conducted their own marketing. This was the case for crypto exchanges Coinburp, Exmo, Luno, and trading platform eToro. However, the authority faulted ad firms Europe and Payward for their ads for American crypto exchanges Coinbase and Kraken, respectively.

In Kraken’s case, a digital poster seen at the London Bridge underground station drew complaints, according to the ASA. Despite the fact that the advertisement itself contained a lengthy disclaimer, the authority believes that “consumers would not have had the time to comprehend the relevant information in the disclaimer if seen at all, and that it, therefore, was not clear.”

Meanwhile, a promotion for Papa John’s pizza restaurant chain offered consumers “free Bitcoin worth £10,” as part of an annual celebration of “Bitcoin pizza day.” The restaurant said the promotion is intended to celebrate the infamous purchase of a pair of Papa John’s pizzas with 10,000 Bitcoin in May 2010 and does not make any comment on the cryptocurrency as an investment. However, the ASA took issue with the offer because it “trivialized what was a serious and potentially costly financial decision, especially in the context of the intended audience who were likely to have limited knowledge of cryptocurrency”.

‘Red alert priority issue’

As the use cases mount, the authority considers monitoring crypto ads to be “a red-alert priority issue,” according to ASA director of complaints and investigations Miles Lockwood. “Consumers need to know about the risks of investing in crypto-assets and companies should make sure that their ads aren’t misleading or socially irresponsible by taking advantage of consumers’ lack of awareness around these complex and volatile products,” he said.

Following a further review of crypto ads, especially those for non-fungible tokens (NFT) and fan tokens, the authority intends to update advertising guidance next year. Last month, the ASA launched an investigation into ads for the Floki Inu token, which is still ongoing.

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