When it comes to the technology giants’ attitude towards the cryptocurrency industry, it seems that all hell broke loose. The leading social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have all banned crypto and ICO ads, thus blocking the industry from accessing circa three billion people. Last week, Mailchimp, the global email marketing giant, has also voiced its intention to prevent its users from sending emails promoting crypto services and ICOs.
But probably the most dramatic move in what industry members are calling “the crypto purge” is the Google AdWords ban. This move, revealed first by Finance Magnates and to become effective in June, has sent industry members into a frenzy. Google AdWords is not “just another advertising channel,” it’s world’s largest online display advertising network.
So, now that the dust has settled and the CMOs have recovered from the bomb dropped by the technology behemoth, it’s time to look back in order to better understand this dramatic decision. But it’s also a time to assess what the industry can do now to spread the word and reach its audience.
We reached out to several executives and marketing experts from the cryptocurrency space to get their view on the aftermath of this recent decision.
Do you think Google’s decision could have been more targeted and moderate, rather than a “blanket ban” for the entire industry?
Egor Gurjev, the CEO of Playkey, believes that Google went too far. “Part of the issue is discerning which crypto companies are operating with complete legitimacy and which are a money-making scheme or ‘scam’. Obviously it would be best if the ban could only be placed on the latter, but by making it a ‘blanket ban’ it would seem they are working under the principle that it is better to be safe than sorry.”
“Banning all advertisement is a very rash decision and could adversely affect these companies’ ability to build sold [sic] client base and inform customers of new offerings. Though it might have taken more time to filter through advertisements, Google could have limited the ban to unknown ICOs or websites that have a history of dishonest business practices. This is a step in the wrong direction for innovation,” says Roman Guelfi-Gibbs, the CEO of Pinnacle Brilliance Systems Inc.
A different point of view is voiced by David Drake’s, CEO and Founder of LDJ Capital and The Soho Loft (a global distribution media company): “I think Google was warranted to do a blanket ban, because there are scamming ICOS out there and it would perpetually increase in liability for Google by having these fraudulent and boarder line ICO’s may or may not be breaking the laws in the US. I agree with what they did. This was the right thing.”
“Unfortunately, there is no middle of the road solution here. The only halfway would mean Google would have to vet and conduct due diligence on ICOs and I am sure they don’t have the desire or expertise to do so,” adds William Skelley, the Co-Founder of William Christopher, a crypto-funding agency
Ben Way, the CEO of Digits.io, continues along these lines: “I think it is unsurprising they did a blanket ban, it’s very hard for a large organization to separate out a Bad Crypto from Good Crypto….they will probably slowly reintroduce over time as they get more comfortable with it.”
Some people claim that the straw that broke the camel’s back was scammy ICOs. Do you agree?
Gurjev agrees: “it would seem that the issue of scam ICOs certainly played a part. It would be fair to say that over half of crypto projects we see come to light are a scam, due to the lack of regulation in the space.”
He also quoted Scott Spencer, Google’s director of sustainable ads, saying that it “hints” to the company’s reasoning for the action: “as consumer trends evolve, as our methods to protect the open web get better, so do online scams.”
“That sounds to be the likely cause of this knee-jerk reaction,” says Guelfi-Gibbs, who thinks that Google’s decision is far less profound and thought-through.
Why did Google decide to put crypto in the same box as binary options and forex/CFD affiliates?
Skelley thinks that Google just chose the easiest option, without giving too much thought to differentiate the industries: “just dump them into a bucket that has a bad reputation. Unfortunately, there are some bad apples in every bunch.”
On the other hand, Wey believes that this decision was not taken by accident: “they are both areas where consumers could lose a lot of money if they are not educated in the space.”
Gurjev agrees but is more cautious on generalizing: “it does seem odd to put them both in the same basket as they are very different things, but there’s no question though that they all could be considered high risk (…) It is to do with the fact that a lot of retail brokers are offering the ability to trade cryptos on their platforms. (…) Just like there are some scam ICOs, there are also some dubious marketing practices when it comes to promotion of binary options and CFD forex trading.”
What does Google want to gain from such an extreme move?
Obviously, no one knows for sure, but there are many theories on why Google did what it did.
Gurjev believes that the technology giant is just attentive to the user criticism: “Google has been under considerable heat in the past when it comes to their advertising policies. They’ve been criticized for allowing radicalism and profiting from addicts via their adverts. This really looks to be a step to show that they are very much on top of their advertising operation.”
“They may have been taking heat from users who have lost money in ICO investments that advertised through them. I’ve sure that many of these victims would likely blame Google for being the conduit for such ICO scams,” Guelfi-Gibbs adds.
Skelley goes along these lines and concludes that Google’s main gain here is mitigating the “reputational/legal risks that can be mitigated by not being affiliated with scams”
Another theory claims that Google had just caved in to the regulator’s pressure. “I suspect they were told by the SEC that they were advertising securities and if they did not stop the government would take legal action,” Way states.
What alternatives do crypto companies have now for advertising to their customers and what is the best practice, in your opinion?
Despite the grim atmosphere among the industry members, all experts claim that there are plenty of alternatives for advertising. “There are a number of popular crypto-calendar websites, news websites and other information portals, podcasts and crypto apps – I’d definitely recommend having a presence across these,” says Gurjev.
Guelfi-Gibbs adds that forum platforms with a specialization in crypto, such as Reddit and BitcoinTalk are also a good option for spreading the word.
“I think we are going to see fundraising go back to more traditional models like road shows, offerings on crowdfunding platforms and good old-fashioned PR,” adds Drake.
The ban is concurrent with one of the biggest regulatory crackdowns this industry has seen. Do you think these moves will lead to the death of the industry?
When it comes to the future of the cryptocurrency, all experts unanimously agree that it will survive and prosper, regardless of the pressure.
According to Gurjev, governments, investors, and even the crypto companies themselves are trying to tame this wild industry. “The Wild West of the crypto world is evolving and as it continues to move into the mainstream, we can expect further actions from the lawmaking and regulating institutions,” he says.
Guelfi-Gibbs believes that these steps will not curb the industry’s growth. “Crypto has shown a remarkable resilience since its inception. The community is highly flexible and will continue to grow despite increased regulation and public scrutiny. Crypto is the future, and with so many companies, banks and governments finding ways to employ blockchain technology in their services, the sector is basically guaranteed to live on and thrive.”
“Blockchain, as a technology is here to stay. Crowdfunding at the start faced similar challenges, the industry will evolve and adapt. ICO’s or similar are elegant ways to allow sophisticated investors to invest in new concepts and ideas,” says Way.