Did Coinbase Win the Super Bowl Crypto War with…a DR ad?

Posted on February 15th, 2022 by Preston Waller

It’s not every year I say this, but it really felt like this year’s Super Bowl was successful by all accounts (unless you had a rooting interest in Cincinnati).

The game was exciting and all of the top players had big moments. The halftime show was perhaps one of, if not the best ever (biased 80’s / 90’s human). The commercials were pretty good overall, and certainly played on nostalgia by bringing back Dr. EV-il, The Cable Guy, Meadow & A.J. Soprano, Barbie, and Scrubs.

Perhaps surprising to many were the number of ads endorsing Crypto. Unless you completely tuned out the ads it would have been hard to miss, but cryptocurrency exchanges were a huge part of the event. In total, four different companies (FTX, eToro, Crypto.com and Coinbase) promoted their brands on the biggest stage. It’s certainly a sign that Crypto is pushing to the masses like online trading platforms have for the last 30 years. Perhaps why E-Trade went back to its roots and brought the baby back?

So with all of this attention to crypto brands, which of them stuck out to those who didn’t have awareness of any before the big game?

Anecdotally, I’ve heard that people really liked the Larry David ad, but couldn’t remember who it was for. I’ve heard that the LeBron ad missed the mark, and viewers weren’t sure which company it was for. Based on the early data and the sheer earned media attention it has received thus far, I would argue that the winner of last night’s Crypto war was the one who took an old-school and response oriented approach…Coinbase.

With COVID, QR code technology has kind of had its moment, at least in that people know how to quickly scan one on their phones to link to the content. I would hardly call the technology old school yet, but it was the way in which Coinbase used the code that I found most interesting. Essentially, they created a 1-minute DRTV ad void of any branded elements, until a 3-second logo flash cut in at the end.

Direct response television (DRTV) is basically any television ad that prompts people to respond directly with a company. These types of ads are by no means new to the Super Bowl, but are far from the bigger brand spots that typically make all of the headlines. By using their $14 million dollar media placement to run a QR code that looked like an old screensaver, they not only were the talk of the ad game, but prompted 20 million hits within 1 minute of their spot airing. Which was enough to crash their site. No 1-800 number, no manual typing in of the website, just open your camera app to see what the fuss is all about. It was a clever approach that leveraged creative, media and technology to help them to stick out in the crowd, and as MediaPost rightfully pointed out, it wouldn’t have worked without the ad being a :60.

My guess is that a large portion of the 36 million households that tuned in to the Super Bowl on Sunday have not been in the market for a Crypto trading platform anytime soon, but we will soon find out the short term ROI on this DRTV ad since their $15 of free Bitcoin offer expires today.

For the long term, the mission of all these companies on Sunday was to build awareness of their brands for when customers are ready to engage – to be the one they try first – to tell people they should not miss out on the Crypto boom (which let’s be honest – has not been completely reassuring as of late). What they collectively did was bring awareness to their industry (which also includes NFT exchanges), and even though the market did not respond favorably to their ad spending yesterday, there is a lot of conversation happening this week as a result.

From a product standpoint, Coinbase might want to be a technology company that does not crash on people, but from a marketing standpoint they may have made some serious strides on getting their brand to stick out in the pack, without having to shell out the talent fees of Matt Damon, LeBron James or Larry David.

Time will tell, but Coinbase may have very well won the Super Bowl.