In November 2021, Floki Inu, a cryptocurrency, ran an ad across the London Underground. The ad had an image of a cartoon dog wearing a Viking helmet. The text stated “MISSED DOGE. GET FLOKI”. Smaller text at the bottom of the ad said, “Your investment may go down as well as up in value. Crypto currency is not regulated in the UK.” The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged the ad.
Floki Inu explained that they had submitted the ad to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) before launching the campaign and they were told that the ad complied with the CAP Code.
As explained by the ASA, Floki Inu said that the image of the cartoon dog was their corporate logo and was used in the ad as brand recognition. They believed it was not socially irresponsible to display their own corporate logo and it did not in itself trivialize investment in cryptocurrency. Indeed, to not include the logo would have been irresponsible as consumers would not have been able to identify the source of the marketing communication. Floki Inu acknowledged that their corporate logo was based on Elon Musk’s dog Floki, but said it was not unusual for cryptocurrencies to originate from humor and/or memes.
The ASA assessment acknowledged Floki Inu’s comments that the ad was only aimed at the “Informed Consumer” and in contrast they believed the “average consumer” would not have comprehended the full meaning of the campaign. However, while consumers who did not have extensive knowledge of cryptocurrencies may not have understood all the references in the ad, cryptocurrency itself was a high profile and topical matter and the ads were addressed to a general audience on London transport poster sites. In addition, the qualifying text in the ad confirmed that it was referring to a cryptocurrency investment. Therefore, the ad would have been understood by consumers in general as promoting a cryptocurrency in direct comparison to another.
Most significant to the ASA was the following:
The ad stated “MISSED DOGE. GET FLOKI” and therefore would have been understood to mean that for consumers who had missed out on an earlier cryptocurrency, in this case Dogecoin, Floki was a brand new alternative. In addition by equating Floki with Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency introduced in 2013, but one that by May 2021 had surged in value, it implied to those with more detailed knowledge of cryptocurrencies, that Floki too would be likely to sharply rise in price in a short period of time. While the specifics of the ad might not have been fully comprehended by those with limited or no knowledge of cryptocurrencies, the implication of the ad for all consumers was still that it was necessary to purchase Floki immediately to make a significant profit and prevent consumers missing out.
The relative small size of the warning concerning cryptocurrency investment was not sufficient to overcome the overriding impression of the ad of the pressing need to buy Floki so the consumer would not lose out in the same way they might have done with Dogecoin.
The ASA also made the point that the ad took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity by not making clear that capital gains tax could be payable on profits from investing. The ASA concluded the ad was irresponsible and breached the CAP Code for that reason as well.
The ASA decided that the ad must not appear again in the form complained about. They also told Floki of the need to ensure that they did not irresponsibly exploit consumer’s fear of missing out and trivialize investment in cryptocurrency. In addition, Floki had to ensure that they did not irresponsibly take advantage of consumers’ lack of experience or credulity by not making clear capital gains tax could be due on cryptocurrency profits.