Crypto must advertise

Every time I fly back home to New York, I’m immediately confronted with “buy crypto” ads at my most vulnerable

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Midjourney modified by Blockworks

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I’ve been on a lot of planes in the last few months. Way more than I should, if I cared about my carbon footprint. And the one thing that all of these plane rides have had in common is their final destination — one of NYC’s three nearest airports. And the one thing that these three airports have in common (besides the insane traffic to get to each one) is crypto advertising. 

Airports are already known as lawless places. Long gone are the times when you would dress up in your finest clothing for a flight — now, you’re lucky if you don’t have to sleep on the floor or spend hours on the runway while harried transport workers offer you tomato juice.

Airports are also places where you can easily make bad decisions. You can rationalize away a $15 morning beer and buying a $30 hardcover book you’ll leave on the plane, or even excuse randomly bursting into tears, just because the claustrophobic airport environment scrambles your brain in some particular way. Perhaps you could even rationalize an investment into some cryptocurrency in this airport-induced fugue state: It’s hard to Do Your Own Research with spotty WiFi and a neck pillow obscuring your screen.

Is this brain scrambled person, then, who these crypto companies hope to reach with their airport advertising?

I’ll set the scene — you’re rolling your suitcase through New York’s JFK, trying to find a seat at your gate. You look up to check your departure, but instead of a scrolling grid of times, you see an ad for Grayscale’s bitcoin fund.

To take this scene further — you’ve found a cab, parked your bag in the trunk, and set off towards Manhattan, passing right next to the giant Tron billboard on the only highway back into the city.

Advertising for cryptocurrency companies has always been a bit tricky. The UK has clamped down hard on the types of ads that crypto firms can run, and I’ve had my own experiences writing a sponsored newsletter for crypto companies in the past where we kept getting deplatformed by wary marketing software.

Of course, there are the famously infamous crypto ads that go beyond billboards on buses and email marketing — the Superbowl crypto commercials, the stadiums named after crypto companies. But the bear market and many, many court cases have seen these types of ads fall by the wayside. 

Read more from our opinion section: Keep your dirty crypto mitts off my mysteries

Without an appetite for multi-million dollar crypto ads, companies that insist on old-fashioned advertising are having to take other routes. For whatever reason, New York subway ads for crypto have also fallen out of fashion, after an influx of ads down in those subterranean tunnels over the past few years. (Which is another missed opportunity for crypto companies if they intended to catch their audience at their most flustered and overwhelmed.)

I guess if you can’t name a sports stadium after your company anymore, and you’re not splurging on decking out a subway car with your logo, you might as well slap up some billboards in and about one of USA’s busiest airports to catch as diverse a slice of the population as you still can?

That’s what’s left, it seems — making sure to capitalize on a weary traveler’s inability to make good decisions and position those crypto ads just so, making them the first thing these exhausted people see after landing.


I don’t care much about tech, I don’t care a whole lot about finance, either. I care about writing stories and watching weird things unfold. And that’s why I’ve ended up in crypto.

But because I’m missing that passion for what crypto and blockchain are all about — finance, tech, privacy, yadda yadda — I’m going to write instead about what I am actually interested in. Everything about crypto that has very little to do with crypto.

That’s what this column will be about. All the tangential stories that come out of the blockchain and crypto space, what I think about them, and how I navigate it all as a skeptical former Russian literature major.

It’s precisely my perch as an outsider that lets me do what I do: Opine on all sides of any crypto issue, no strings attached, no skin in the game.

If you want to talk crypto with me, let’s go off topic.

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