The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) has declared cryptocurrency marketing a “red alert area” after launching an investigation into a TFL ad campaign for the cryptocurrency Floki Inu.
The investigation into an ad promoting the ‘meme coin’ named after Elon Musk’s dog has led the advertising watchdog to reaffirm its crypto crackdown, telling The Drum: “We won’t hesitate to bring sanctions against ads that break our rules.”
The campaign in question ran in October for three weeks on London tubes and buses. It promotes investment in crypto by encouraging people to search for Floki if they weren’t quick enough to invest in other currencies. One ad said: “Missed Doge? Get Floki” – Doge referring to another cryptocurrency featuring an image of a Shiba Inu.
The latest crypto inquiry is part of wider ASA scrutiny of the unregulated banking sector, which it says is a “priority area.”
In a statement to The Drum, the ASA said: “We’re currently conducting proactive monitoring and reviewing a broad body of ads in this sector. These aren’t exclusively from TfL services but across various media spaces.
“We’ll be assessing whether these ads break our rules and using our findings to inform our regulation in this area, including any follow-up enforcement action.”
The ASA has previously banned a TFL crypto campaign. The Luno exchange ad was taken down in May after the ASA found its strapline – “it’s time to buy” – misleading and irresponsible for encouraging people to invest in unregulated financial products.
In July the ASA indicated it would crack down on misleading cryptocurrency ads, especially ones that don’t explain the financial risks. At the time director of complaints and investigations at ASA Miles Lockwood told The Financial Times: “We see this as an absolutely crucial and priority area for us. Where we do find problems, we will crack down hard and fast.”
The ASA said it was clear on its rules that cryptocurrency ads must avoid jargon that can’t be easily understood by their audience or take advantage of their lack of experience, and must appropriately flag risk, noting that the value of investments is variable and can go down as well as up.