Cryptocurrency, which had become a sunrise category for the digital media last year, is limiting advertising, which has led to a drop in ad spends this year, thanks to regulatory uncertainty in India.
Digital marketing agencies say in the current scenario, while digital remains key for the crypto category, brands are not as aggressive as they were last year.
"There was a lot of aggressiveness by crypto brands like CoinDCX, and CoinSwitch Kuber in digital media buying, influencer marketing, and endorsement with celebrities. In terms of the number of content creators, the crypto category was the highest in India. And brands like CoinDCX, CoinSwitch Kuber had associated with most number of influencers," Shahir Muneer, founder of Divo, a digital media and music company, told Moneycontrol.
He added that there has been a dramatic drop of 80-90 percent in digital advertising by crypto brands. “When it comes to deals with content creators, influencers and celebrities it is pretty much none,” he said.
While Prashant Puri, Co-founder, and CEO, AdLift, does not see a drastic drop in advertising by crypto brands, he estimates it at 75 percent of last year.
“According to AdLift research, we’re expecting digital marketing spends for the crypto space to be between Rs 500 crore and Rs 750 crore this year. The top brands include WazirX, CoindDCX, CoinSwitch and Zebpay,” he said.
Last year, cryptocurrency brands had spent Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,000 crore on digital marketing.
Routine ads by cryptos
“Since we are going low with the high-impact advertising strategies for crypto this year, the spends have overall declined. On an average, each brand is spending millions of dollars per month on routine funnel-based advertising. This used to be even higher earlier with mass aggressive high-impact ads done in bigger properties,” said a digital marketer who didn’t wish to be named.
Neha Puri, CEO & Founder, Vavo Digital, also said that many of the major crypto platforms have taken a backseat. “Brands that used to run monthly campaigns with budgets of over Rs 50 lakh have drastically reduced it to simply maintaining their presence on social media feed.”
“Most of the crypto exchanges have taken steps to limit crypto advertising and celebrity endorsements, which have been criticised as misleading and potentially harmful to regular investors. Due to a lack of regulation and a well-structured advertising policy, crypto exchanges have shifted their attention to raising user knowledge,” she added.
Marketers say that the crypto category has restricted advertising on digital to routine ads.
“We have started with (crypto) advertising over the last two months, but only with routine ads. The high-impact ones are a strict no-no,” Shrenik Gandhi, Co-Founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, said.
He added that after the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines on virtual digital assets came into effect, crypto brands are going slow with aggressive high-impact advertisements.
Slow but steady on digital
Yet, digital remains the main medium for the crypto category.
“Crypto as a category has always had a high digital share for advertisements with about 70-75 percent spend on digital and the rest on print this year,” said Gandhi.
Om Malviya, President, Tezos India, cited AdEx India data, according to which digital had nearly a 100 percent share in terms of ad insertions on cryptocurrency platforms between January and July 2021. “Ad insertions on digital increased 12 times from January to July 2021 compared to the same period of the previous year,” said Malviya.
He added that even if platforms like WazirX and CoinDCX advertised on television, the majority of ad expenditure has been focused on digital.
“In terms of impact, Facebook and Instagram are two of the top platforms for crypto advertisements with new policies from Meta that have expanded the possibility for crypto companies to place their ads on these platforms. This is followed by programmatic spending across multiple websites,” said Gandhi.
No Regulatory clarity
Although ad buying continues on digital, Vavo Digital’s Puri said, “The regaining of advertising momentum by crypto brands is dependent on the upcoming advertising regulations.”
Divo’s Muneer noted that it is not just cryptocurrency for which the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the government are contemplating regulations. He pointed out that for fintech brands many restrictions on advertising have been put in place.
“When a popular YouTuber, but not a movie celebrity, was approached by a fintech brand, SEBI did not give a go-ahead and reasoned that the YouTuber was a well-known name and cannot be considered to promote a fintech firm. There are many such compliance needs for fintech brands but not for crypto brands. So, SEBI is looking to put in place a level playing field. Hence, it wants to curtail marketing spends until there is clarity on regulation,” he said.
However, Muneer said that while there has to be oversight of crypto brands, online trading companies like Binomo are advertising in India without any restrictions.
“The brand has become a big advertiser in India. I have not seen any brand activate the number of influencers in India as much as Binomo. More than 10,000 influencers have associated with the online trading company,” said Muneer.
He added that along with cryptos, advertising by brands like Binomo also need to be regulated.