The Coinbase logo, with coins.
Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Crypto is dead. Or is it?

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Good morning! This weekend, Coinbase celebrated its 10th birthday with a snarky ad that took aim at crypto skeptics, reminding us all that crypto has been on life support before. Still, this time feels different … or does it? I’m Caitlin McGarry, and I have Harry Styles’ “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” on repeat.

Crypto's death knell

A 30-second Coinbase ad, which aired during the Golden State Warriors game against the Mavericks on Friday, pointed out that people have been naysaying crypto in exactly the same way for the last 10 years: by declaring it dead.

Coinbase makes a good point. As far as ads go, this was successful. It might not encourage anyone to use Coinbase to buy the dip, but the historical context is useful as people contemplate crypto’s future.

  • It was “effective if the objective is to let the market know Coinbase isn’t heading for the life rafts quite yet,” Jef Loeb, creative director at Brainchild Creative, told my Protocol colleague Ben Pimentel.
  • “It drives home the message that just like so many other emerging technologies and emerging markets, blockchain and crypto will have their ups and downs — but they are here to stay,” Michael Fasanello, chief compliance officer of LVL, told Ben.
  • But the commercial is also a complete 180 from crypto companies’ hype-fueling Super Bowl ad blitz. Coinbase’s own Super Bowl ad, a mysterious commercial featuring a floating QR code, brought 20 million people to the company’s website in the span of a single minute.

But crypto really isn’t doing so hot right now. Neither is Coinbase. Two weeks ago, Coinbase executives used the company’s earnings call to double down on crypto hype in what appeared to be a total rejection of reality. It almost immediately pivoted from that optimism, announcing plans to freeze hiring, put new projects on hold and slash spending.

  • Coinbase’s stock has dropped by more than 50% in the last month, and the overall crypto market has lost more than $1 trillion in the same period.
  • It’s rough out there, which makes the company’s new commercial feel a little tone-deaf. The ad isn’t exactly telling customers to HODL, but it’s not not saying that.

Crypto obviously isn’t dead quite yet. But the folks Coinbase featured in its commercial, who’ve been tweeting about crypto's coming demise, have a decade of evidence to point to. And right now, it’s not looking great.

  • Digital currencies are under the microscope as some retail investors have gotten completely screwed by dumping their life savings into what is still an unregulated, speculative asset class.
  • Lawmakers in the U.S. are taking a closer look at crypto, and while it’s unclear exactly how or when regulations will come down the pipeline stateside, that possibility seems more real in Europe.
  • Over the weekend, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told Dutch television that crypto needs to be regulated. “My very humble assessment is that it is worth nothing, it is based on nothing, there is no underlying asset to act as an anchor of safety,” she said.

With the recent collapse of algorithmic stablecoin UST, which was supposed to peg crypto to the dollar and make it less of a wildcard, Lagarde and other crypto skeptics have an increasingly solid case. Still, it’s hard to criticize Coinbase for running the ad. Who can deny it a little optimism on its birthday, after all.

Caitlin McGarry (email | twitter)


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Fadeke Adegbuyi, former marketing manager with Doist, knows a thing or two about productivity. Protocol’s Lizzy Lawrence spoke with Adegbuyi on the best ways to get things done. Here are a few tips:

  • Separate your day into blocks, and assign each block a specific task. That way, “work will fill the time you set for it.”
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