What Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad reveals about how we adopt new tech

Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad – and the fallout after it – has shone a spotlight on the relationship between tech and marketing. Here Lore Oxford, global head of cultural insights at We Are Social, examines what it can teach us

As if there wasn’t enough publicity surrounding Coinbase’s internet-breaking Super Bowl spot, Coinbase’s CEO Brian Armstrong has engaged in a spat with an ad agency after he claimed the ad was developed in-house. Martin Agency CEO Kristen Cavallo responded over Twitter that her agency pitched the idea.

This controversy serves to further highlight the awkward phase that cryptocurrencies – and the brands involved with them – are at in their exceptionally fast-paced growth spurt. Last year, Bitcoin’s market value surpassed $1 trillion – the first cryptocurrency to do so, just 12 years after its conception. The technology’s development cycle has been catalysed by a cocktail of cultural factors – including a pandemic-driven digital revolution and a growing dissatisfaction with global authorities and financial institutions – and as a result, there hasn’t been time for it to fully evolve before coming under public scrutiny.

Much like the dot.com boom, crypto was originally a countercultural movement and is rooted in rebellion against the status quo. Web1 was all about decentralisation and redistribution of knowledge before the big corporations moved in and made it about money – and now we’re seeing history repeat itself with Web3.

Crypto is getting closer to transitioning into mainstream culture – exemplified by Visa buying a CryptoPunk NFT last year, in the least crypto or punk move ever. The rebels that were once fighting the establishment are now fast becoming the establishment, and they’re grappling with that tension between where they are going and where they’ve come from. Perhaps that’s why Armstrong was so quick to distance himself and his brand from ad agencies, and to ensure his following knows that he’s “new to marketing”.