An advertisement for DMM Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency exchange, can be seen on a large billboard in the busiest intersection in Japan – Shibuya crossing. The ad’s location has been interpreted by some as evidence of the emerging popularity of cryptocurrencies. Its presence signals how the digital currency is now at the center of media’s attention as well as within Japan’s collective conversation. The ad features a Japanese celebrity covered in gold.
According to a 20-year old tourist from UK who saw the ad, it was the first time he saw an advertisement that is visible in a public street. “When I was in London I would see ads all over Facebook, but never on TV or in the streets like this.” Despite the slew of digital currency advertisements consumers have been exposed to, its manner of promotion has been similarly pushed back due to the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies.
Facebook previously banned ads that were promoting cryptocurrencies. An industry group in Japan encouraged self-regulation with regards to the hacking incident which involved Coincheck Inc. Meanwhile, a senior researcher who specializes in financial technologies for the Mizuho Research Institute, Kenji Harashima, describes Japanese digital exchanges as the world’s most active. He explained, “Japanese exchanges are the most active in the world. Not only is this the result of tight regulations in China and South Korea, it is also because you can use leverage to make investments.” Harashima added, “In 2017, with increasing cryptocurrency asset prices, more people gained an interest in buying, and exchanges began a stronger push in the Japanese media market.”
Digital currencies that posted ads on web platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram include Coincheck, BitFlyer, and DMM. These exchanges similarly had TV commercials. Japan’s biggest exchange, BitFlyer, was the first exchange to have a commercial on television. DMM and Coincheck soon followed. However, the CEO of SBI Holdings, Yoshitaka Kitao, expressed his anger at the amount of money spent on commercials. He explained, “The thing that makes me the most angry is that they spent money on commercials that should have been spent on their systems.” Kitao is referring to Coinchek Inc.’s spending behavior. Coincheck exchange was hacked into last month and as much as $500 million digital tokens were stolen. Executives of Coincheck admitted that their priority was attracting customers using advertisements instead of making their system secure.