Watchdog bans London tube Floki Inu cryptocurrency ad campaign

Advertisements named after Elon Musk’s dog allegedly took advantage of consumers’ naivety

The UK advertising watchdog has banned a London underground campaign for Floki Inu, a cryptocurrency named after a dog owned by Tesla chief Elon Musk, for allegedly taking advantage of naive consumers unaware of the potential dangers of investing in digital crypto assets.

The poster campaign featured an image of a cartoon dog wearing a Viking helmet and encouraged consumers who may have missed out on making money from other successful cryptocurrencies, such as Dogecoin, to join the investment craze.

“Missed Doge? Get Floki” ran the campaign’s strapline, which warned in small print that the value of an investment can “go down as well as up” and noted that cryptocurrencies aren’t regulated in the UK.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated the ad campaign because it trivialised the risk of investment, exploited consumers’ fears they might be “missing out” on the cryptocurrency boom and took advantage of their lack of knowledge of the controversial financial product.

Floki, which launched in June last year, told the ad watchdog their logo – based on Musk’s adopted Shiba Inu dog Floki – was key to brand recognition, and was neither socially irresponsible nor contributing to trivialising investment in the “meme coin”.

Floki Frunkpuppy

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2021

“We considered that the use of a cartoon imagery gave the impression that purchasing cryptocurrency was a light-hearted and trivial matter,” the ASA ruled. “As such, it distracted consumers from the seriousness of an investment which was volatile and unregulated.”

The company also said the ad campaign primarily targeted the “informed consumer” to take note of a new cryptocurrency opportunity. The “average consumer” was protected by the warnings in the ad’s small print, and wouldn’t understand the in-joke and play on words used in the strapline in any case, it said.

The ASA ruled that by running on the capital’s tube network they targeted a general audience, many of whom would have an awareness of the cryptocurrency craze.

The watchdog said the relative size of the warning small print compared with the advertising slogan meant its overriding impression to any commuter was that it was imperative to buy Floki Inu now to avoid missing out on significant profits.

“We considered that the ad took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity,” the ASA said. “We therefore concluded the ad was irresponsible and breached the code. We told Floki Inu to ensure that they did not irresponsibly exploit consumers’ fear of missing out and trivialise investment in cryptocurrency.”

In January, the Treasury unveiled plans to crack down on misleading cryptocurrency ads by making them subject to the same regulations as marketing for other financial products such as shares and insurance.

The move to change the law will mean ads for cryptoassets become subject to rules governed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to bring them “in line with the same high standard that other financial promotions such as stocks, shares and insurance products are held to”.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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