As recently reported in the Irish Independent, Gabriel Makhlouf, the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland has been speaking at the Oireachtas Finance Committee about crypto. In particular, he has raised concerns about crypto advertising targeting young people (ie those under 25), who are being exposed to advertising, and in many cases losing money.
Longer term readers of the site will be aware that we ourselves were one of the first to flag the Floki advertising campaign that happened in late 2021, having seen it plastered all over Dublin city centre. I had also flagged at the time that I wouldn’t be surprised if the campaign caused issues, given it had no risk warnings at all, and just a couple of weeks later there was information published showing that it had received hundreds of complaints.
Given that I work in marketing and advertising in the crypto advertising industry, there’s a couple of things about Governor Makhlouf’s opinion that should be raised. Firstly, if the gambling, alcohol and more recently e-cigarettes, which have been around for a lot longer than cryptocurrency, cannot be prevented from targeting teenagers, let alone young adults who are above the age of majority, then it’s a bit rich to think that the same can be done with an industry that’s largely located outside of the country.
In addition to this, only a handful of the digital advertising channels that are there can even properly target by age already have heavy restrictions, if not outright bans on cryptocurrency ads relating to token sales, investments and trading platforms. The rest don’t have that capability, only able to target by country, so a ban as he has suggested is impractical and unworkable in real life.
While there are many advertising standards around financial services covering broadcast and print media, few of these have been extended into the digital sphere. So in practice the only way that a ban could be introduced to restrict it to under 25’s is to ban it outright, and only a small section of the mainstream digital advertising media would abide by this.
When you consider that Revolut, that is trouncing the banks in user experience and has over a third of the country signed up to use it is platform and has recently been granted a banking license, is giving people from every walk of life across Ireland the ability to take a position on a wide range of crypto’s (it’s not a “proper” wallet as you can’t take it off platform), as well as offering users free crypto through the Learn program it has built into the app, does this mean that these features will be locked out from people who are 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24? Anyway, it will be interesting to track how this discussion evolves.
I for one am very pro having rules around it to make sure that the same disclosures that a trading app such as eToro has to disclose, such as the number of people who have lost money, apply where appropriate to crypto.