Tfl urged to ban ‘unethcial’ cryptocurrency tube adverts

Floki ad
An ad for cryptocurrency Floki on the tube. Credits: Umut Akalin

If you’ve taken the tube in the past month, you might have noticed ads for a new cryptocurrency called Floki.

‘Missed Dodge? Get Floki’ said the advertisement campaign, referring to Dogecoin, the meme cryptocurrency popularised by Elon Musk.

Ads for Floki appeared on Tfl buses and tube stations in London throughout October.

But some have raised concerned about the ads and highlighted the volatility of cryptocurrencies.

Siân Berry, the Green party London Assembly member, tabled a question to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, about the campaign. 

‘This should have raised a red flag and someone at TfL should have looked at this before it was approved,’ she said.

She also said that TfL had accepted three ads for crypto products, including Floki, in recent weeks. 

‘I don’t think cryptocurrency ads should be on the network. They’re unethical,’ added Berry.

Floki ad on the London Underground
Disclaimer on the Floki Tfl advertisement. Credits: Spyros Theodoritsis

TfL, and their advertising partner Global, know the adverts for Floki Inu were placed by the agency Kinetic, however, the names of individuals behind the campaign are not known.

Tfl has been reviewing all cryptocurrency advertisements before running them since 2018.

UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently began cracking down on crypto advertisements, particularly online and on social media platforms as reported by the Financial Times.

‘When reviewing copy now from cryptocurrency brands who wish to advertise on our estate, we ensure that campaigns contain sufficient information to comply with both our policy and the ASA ruling,’ said Chris Reader, Head of Commercial Media at TfL.

The cryptocurrency called Floki is named after Elon Musk’s dog. In June, Musk tweeted his intention to adopt a Shiba Inu and name it Floki. In September, he introduced Floki on his Twitter, inspiring this particular cryptocurrency.

Since the software used to make crypto became widely available, hundreds of new digital currencies have been launched, many inspired by memes and even TV shows.

Elon Musk – the self-proclaimed ‘Dogefather’ – has been responsible for pumping the price of Dogecoin on several occasions by sharing memes relating to the dog-themed cryptocurrency on his social media.

The concerns on advertising cryptocurrency come after recent ‘pump and dump’ scams like the Squid Game token scam where some investors garnered interest in a coin and made away with millions. 

‘Your investment may go down as well as up in value,’ read the disclaimer at the bottom of the advertisement, adding that cryptocurrency was not regulated in the UK. This is sufficient information to comply with both TfL policy and the ASA ruling.

Floki’s website claims it is a utility-focused meme coin looking to surpass the Shiba Inu and Dodgecoin in reach and market valuation.

The company recently announced their flagship utility project, an NFT gaming metaverse named Valhalla, and have announced plans to build more utility projects with Floki at the core.

Floki also claims that its core vision is ‘to build a school in every continent first and in every underdeveloped nation of the world eventually.’ They recently partnered with Pencils of Promise to start building a school in Ghana, according to a tweet by the charity.

Their legitimacy is also attributed to an official partnership with Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk’s gardening charity, Milion Gardens Movement. In August, Floki donated 1% of their monthly marketing budget to the Million Gardens Movement, amounting to $13,700.

Floki has also been advertised on billboards in various cities including Miami and Times Square in New York

About 2.3m people in the UK own digital assets, according to the UK financial regulator, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

UK Treasury is considering a proposal to give the FCA a larger role in controlling the promotion of crypto assets under tougher standards. At present, this only applies to marketing traditional financial products. 

Last month, the Bank of England’s deputy governor Sir Jon Cunliffe warned that regulation on cryptocurrency was needed as a ‘matter of urgency’.

The Floki adverts have currently been booked to run on London transport services from the beginning of October 2021 until the middle of January 2022.

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