Thanks to wide-spread ICO advertising bans on almost every major online advertising platform, many start-ups have turned to Outbrain and Taboola to market their ICOs. The crypto community was thriving on these two platforms. So it came as a shock to us when we discovered that they had both quietly banned crypto advertising.
Why So Many Bans?
It can be disheartening to realize that there’s almost no place left to advertise your upcoming ICO. It can feel like a harsh indictment of an entire industry, despite the many promising projects being successfully funded by ICOs.
So the question is, why are all of these platforms banning advertising of ICOs, and something other cryptocurrency related content?
We believe there are two factors at play here.
Perhaps the biggest factor is that the general public doesn’t really understand cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology. And while companies like Google may be looking at ways to implement blockchain, that doesn’t speak to a company-wide understanding of it. At this point, it’s too hard for the people approving ads to tell the difference between a legitimate ICO and a scam, so it’s easier for them to implement a blanket ban while they wait for the industry to sort itself out.
The other is the fear of lawsuits. As the SEC looks at the crypto industry and tries to decide whether ICOs are securities and as such need to be registered with the agency, advertising platforms are left unsure where they stand. If ICOs are ruled as securities, then those running unregistered ICOs would be committing a crime, and Google or Facebook could be seen as participating in the advertisement of illegal activities.
It boils down to the fact that advertising platforms are always going to protect themselves, first and foremost. Yes, they’re losing out on the money they could be gaining from ICO advertisements, but they’re protecting themselves from the potential cost and reputation damage of lawsuits.
As for Outbrain and Taboola, they’ve been trying to clean up their images for years. Early associations with controversial fake articles, sexy ads and misleading ads have dogged these companies. It’s not surprising that they would follow the policies of the biggest names in online advertising in order to maintain their own reputation.
Is This Really a Bad Thing?
On the surface, these bans look bad for ICOs. If your marketing plan called for using Outbrain and Taboola, you may be wondering what you can do now, and if it’s even worth moving forward.
But the truth is, if your project has solid ideas, you can still find investors. The best ICOs get the majority of their backing from accredited investors, not individuals who found them through an advertisement.
The more difficult it becomes to advertise an ICO, the more the field will be winnowed down to just the best, most well-developed ideas. Scams and pipe dreams thrived in the era of easily available advertisement. But now that they can’t reach a vast audience of the general public with their get-rich-quick schemes, they’ll move on to some other way to fleece people.
Every new technology and industry goes through this sort of growing pain – some of us are old enough to remember the original dot-com bubble and all of the businesses from back then who raised money despite not really providing anything. Younger readers will be familiar with the current craze of crowdfunding and how so many great ideas on Kickstarter never really come to fruition, making backers more careful of what they support.
The dot-com bubble burst, leaving behind the businesses that actually had quality goods and services to offer. Crowdfunding will focus more and more on projects that have a great team and a clear road to project completion. And the ICO frenzy will settle down, leaving behind only those start-ups that have a well-realized goal for how to use blockchain.
What’s an ICO Marketer to Do?
To weather this storm, we’re all going to have to keep our heads down and really focus our efforts on the platforms where crypto is still welcome. This mainly means advertising on cryptocurrency specific sites. The benefit of this is that you’re reaching an informed audience. The drawback, of course, is that it we’re not bringing new people into the crypto community and economy.
And so, we have to look not only to marketing our ICOs, but looking to see what impact we can have on the future of cryptocurrency and ICO marketing.
Outbrain and Taboola have banned cryptocurrency advertisers because nobody outside of the cryptocurrency community understands the blockchain technology and its many applications. All they hear about is the price of Bitcoin, and how people got scammed by some shady ICOs.
Like many a misunderstood community in the past, it would be easy for us to withdraw, to circle our wagons and ignore the outside world. But that strategy doesn’t pay off in the long run. If we want to be able to advertise our ICOs on Google, Facebook, Outbrain and Taboola, we need to get out there and make ourselves heard.
It’s not going to do any good to sit around crying about how you can’t advertise on Outbrain and Taboola anymore. The only way forward is through – or is the only way through forward? Either way, we’ve got to keep moving. We’ve got to keep plugging away at our ICOs, advertising them where we can, but also really focusing about word of mouth.
We’re not just talking about the word of mouth of getting your specific ICO out there, either. It’s time to talk about all the cool things that are happening thanks to blockchain and cryptocurrency. You’re excited about your ICO, sure. But what existing products inspired your team to dream up this idea?
Get out there and talk about blockchain and cryptocurrency until everyone in your life is sick of hearing about it. Help your grandma understand what a distributed ledger is. Explain to your neighbor the percentage of legitimate ICOs versus scams. Got a kid? Offer to come in one day and talk about just what you do. The next generation is going to be surrounded by blockchain, better get them ready now.
There’s no denying that every advertising ban makes an ICO marketer’s job harder. We have a long way to go before ICOs gain the universal acceptance enjoyed by other forms of investment and fundraising. But with a little determination and a lot of hard work, we can get through this.