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For the last 56 years, the Super Bowl has had an unofficial catchphrase: “The commercials are the best part.” Obviously, football fans around the country would disagree, but that hasn’t stopped the Super Bowl advertising industrial complex from sucking up just as much attention. And who has the most money to burn on vaporware posing as the future: crypto.
This year’s batch of Crypto ads attracted big names, including Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David and basketball legend and Space Jam: A New Legacy star LeBron James. The ads, disturbing and boring in their own ways, were met with derision online for basically the same reason: They suck because the thing they’re advertising sucks.
Larry David’s jump into the crypto game comes via a fun concept: What if Larry were an eternal curmudgeon, a naysaying Zelig willing to shutdown every advancement throughout time. So far so good, when he’s decrying “even the stupid ones” getting the right to vote or poo-pooing indoor plumbing. But when it comes to an unregulated currency that is nearly impossible to use, environmentally destructive, and so vulnerable to scams that the world’s worst parody rapper made out with billions? Sounds pretty, pretty, pretty good to Larry.
The same could be said for LeBron James and the CGI young LeBron that crawled out of the uncanny valley and into our living rooms this Sunday evening. James, who is the Crypto.com Arena’s star attraction, has at least a vested interest in making his home stadium’s namesake a little less embarrassing. In the making of a documentary about the ad, Brian Lay, creative director for Crypto.com, describes Lebron as a “transcendent figure” who brings a “humanity that we can all related to,” which is why they included a character from The Polar Express to hock fake money to a “new generation of builders.” So brave. You know what, it is courageous to give viewers some fresh nightmare fuel.
However, it won’t win either popularity contests. Online, fans were disappointed to see Larry David’s discerning eye falling for the grift. “Larry David doing Crypto commercials gotta be some form of elder abuse,” one person tweeted. Another Twitter user called his appearance in the spot was “the single most devastating thing to ever happen to” them and requested “space to process.” Every year the Super Bowl proves that many stars are willing to shill products for the right prices. So this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. However, the ad capitalizes on his persona as a sentient discerning eye, but the product, which is basically non-existent, punctures that facade.
Disappointment in Larry comes sandwiched between other nonsensical crypto garbage that pedals the same gold rush promises as NFTs. These meaningless currencies will only have value if the very rich convince you to buy in. Buy LeBron’s crypto and you too could one day be a gazillionaire. All you need to do is scan the bouncing QR code, create an eToro account, and hope that you don’t lose the password to your wallet, aren’t scammed out of your holdings, and/or don’t ever actually want to spend the “money” you have.
Digital funny money was everywhere during the Super Bowl, without even attempting to explain what the hell crypto is. Though, in some cases, like the eToro “social investing” site, it’s just as easy to parade out some Doge and “to the moon” memes, which is basically the same as explaining how stupid this stuff is. If they explained it, they couldn’t advertise it. Hey, that tactic works for Scientology.
Ultimately, these ads just promise the future without getting specific, hoping to coast on celebrity personas to convince buyers to buy. Yes, we basically defined all of advertising. We just wish Larry was a little more skeptical. We didn’t even think that was possible.