Regulation Cryptocurrency ASA

Papa John’s among seven brands to feel the wrath of ASA’s crypto crackdown


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

December 15, 2021 | 5 min read

The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) has found seven cryptocurrency ads in breach of its rules, with ads from Papa John’s and the financial services app eToro among them.

ASA cryptocurrency crackdown gets underway with seven ad bans

The ASA’s cryptocurrency crackdown has got under way with seven ad bans

The rulings are part of the ASA’s proactive crackdown on misleading cryptocurrency ads and will shape the regulator’s guidance on crypto advertising, which is due in 2022.

The bans come as the ASA declared crypto marketing a “red alert area” after launching an investigation in November into a TFL ad campaign for the cryptocurrency Floki Inu.

“Our rulings published today and over the next few weeks will shape follow-up enforcement work in the new year to bring all crypto assets ads into line with our expectations and will form the basis of updated guidance,” said Miles Lockwood, director of complaints and investigations at the ASA.

A Papa John’s website and Twitter post offering free Bitcoin in exchange for a pizza purchase was banned in May for taking advantage of consumers’ lack of experience and for trivializing cryptocurrency. The Twitter post touted: “We’ve partnered with @LunoGlobal to offer Free Bitcoin worth £10 for every pizza bought via our ‘£15 off when you spend £30’” and “Turn pizza into £10 worth of bitcoin.”

In defense of the ads, Papa John’s said it had a longstanding relationship with crypto trader Luno and the ad was a celebration of #PizzaBitCoinDay to raise awareness of the connection between cryptocurrency and pizza. Papa John’s said the ads made no comment in investing in Bitcoin and the promotion only offered “a mechanism for customers to get free Bitcoin,” likening it to a cashback scheme.

Stocks and shares app eToro came under fire for a paid ad on Yahoo that stated: “Invest in the world’s top cryptos with one click” and “Discover eToro’s unique BitcoinWorldwide offering, a ready-made portfolio, holding the world’s leading crypto assets.”

Similar to Papa John’s, the ASA found the ad to be irresponsible and misleading for failing to illustrate the risk of the investment. eToro admitted that in this case the appropriate risk warning was missing, but did say it believed the ad did not suggest that cryptocurrency was straightforward and for everyone.

Other rulings

  • Digital exchange platform Payward breached ASA rules in August for a digital poster in London Bridge. Despite running the ad with a disclaimer, the ASA found the ad to take advantage of consumers’ inexperience and for failing to illustrate the risks, ruling that the disclaimer wasn’t visible for long enough.

  • In August Bitcoin trader Exmo Exchange was challenged for a YouTube crypto promotion on the Wingin’ It! Paul Lucas YouTube channel and for offering $100 free cashback. The ASA ruled the overall impression from the ad was that crypto was simple and risk-free, and the cashback was offering an incentive to invest.

  • Luno Money had three violations investigated and upheld in relation to an ad in The Daily Mail that stated: “Invest in crypto for as little as £1.” The ad was found to be misleading about the risks; took advantage of consumers’ inexperience; and didn’t make clear the fees for buying and selling crypto.

  • A paid-for Facebook ad from crypto exchange platform Coinbase Europe was banned in July for its strapline: “£5 in #Bitcoin in 2010 would be worth over £100,000 in January 2021. Don’t miss out on the next decade – get started on Coinbase today.” The ASA banned the ad claiming it didn’t make clear there was any guarantee on the return on investment and it implied dealing crypto was simple.

  • The ASA ruled against a Twitter bio for a cryptocurrency trading platform Coinburp that stated: “Register in minutes, deposit instantly, then make super-easy and secure crypto trades.” The ASA ruling said in the absence of any other information in the ad consumers would interpret the claim to mean that investment in cryptocurrency was straightforward, and the ad wasn’t clear that crypto is unregulated.

The ASA reaffirmed its hard line against ads that break its rules and encouraged the public to get in touch if they see concerning crypto ads.

“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,” Lockwood added.

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