The UK’s ad watchdog has banned seven cryptocurrency ads.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says monitoring crypto assets, such as Bitcoin, is a “red alert priority” due to concerns that many advertisements do not fully convey the risks of investing.
The banned ads included a promotion from a pizza chain and Facebook ads for a large cryptocurrency exchange.
The ASA says it hopes to produce a new guidance on cryptocurrency advertising.
The seven advertisements or promotions were “banned for irresponsibly taking advantage of consumer inexperience and failing to illustrate investment risk,” he said.
The companies whose ads violated the rules were:
Coinburp – A Twitter page for Coinburp, a cryptocurrency trading platform.
eToro (UK) – A paid display ad for eToro, an equity and cryptocurrency trading platform.
Payward – A digital poster for Kraken, an online cryptocurrency exchange.
Exmo Exchange: A YouTube Video Promoting Exmo Cryptocurrency Exchange
Luno Money – An in-app ad for Luno, a cryptocurrency exchange service.
Coinbase Europe – A paid Facebook ad for Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange.
Papa John’s GB: A promotion on the Papa John’s pizza chain website and in a Twitter post.
Papa John’s banned website promotion offered consumers “Free Bitcoin worth £ 10”, as well as telling customers: “Save £ 15 when you spend £ 30 or more and get £ 10 worth of Luno’s Bitcoin! ”
The firm said it was part of its annual “Bitcoin Pizza Day” celebration, which is said to mark the exchange of two Papa John’s pizzas for 10,000 bitcoins in May 2010. Ten thousand bitcoins today would be worth more than £ 350. million ($ 462 million).
The company argued that the promotion did not comment on the cryptocurrency or its suitability for investment.
The chain said that the “free” offering of Bitcoin was completely different from a scenario in which a consumer had the opportunity to invest their own money in a financial product.
But the ASA found that the offering “trivialized what was a serious and potentially expensive financial decision, especially in the context of the target audience who likely had limited knowledge of cryptocurrencies.”
The Kraken ad, which led to a complaint to the ASA, was seen at London Bridge station on a digital billboard.
Although it contained a lengthy disclaimer, the ASA found that “consumers would not have had time to understand the relevant information in the disclaimer, if they saw it at all, and that it was therefore unclear.”
The decision comes as some politicians wonder whether cryptocurrency ads should run on London trains and buses.
In November, the ASA announced that it was investigating advertisements appearing underground for the Floki Inu cryptocurrency, a so-called “meme coin” named after billionaire Elon Musk’s dog.
That investigation continues, says the ASA, though Floki Inu insists its ads comply with the rules.
The bans are part of a larger project that will result in an updated guide to crypto asset advertising next year.
Miles Lockwood, the watchdog’s director of complaints and investigations, said: “Crypto assets are a high-priority red-alert topic for us.
“Consumers must be aware of the risks of investing in crypto assets and companies must ensure that their advertisements are not misleading or socially irresponsible by taking advantage of consumers’ lack of awareness of these complex and volatile products,” he said.
The ASA said it would continue to review crypto asset announcements over the next several months, not only for cryptocurrencies, but also for NFTs and fan tokens.