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In-depth: Do Crypto ads need to be more transparent in nature?

The legal and regulatory framework of cryptocurrency is still not clear in India. The exchanges, however, have flooded all mediums with Crypto ads. Experts say that there's an immediate need for Crypto exchanges to be more transparent in their communication, keeping consumer protection at the core

“Trade kar befikar”, “Kya aapke portfolio me crypto hai”, “Kuch toh badlega”, “Future yahi hai”. Have you been hearing these lines on your TV and wondered what these lines are about? Well, these are some of the taglines being used by crypto and bitcoin exchanges in their communication.

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Crypto and bitcoin exchange players have been bombarding ads across mediums, especially during the ongoing ICC T20 Men’s World Cup. Meanwhile, a large population is still clueless about what the space exactly is. It is not only TV ads but many influencers and celebrities have been promoting these exchanges for a while now.

The crypto industry in India claims to have over 10 crore users with an investment of over Rs 6 lakh crore, making it a major asset class.

The other asset classes such as mutual funds, equities etc have a proper SEBI code that they have to follow for their advertisements. However, any such framework for Crypto is yet to be figured out.

Currently, crypto players claim they commit to self-regulation according to BACC ( Blockchain and Crypto Assets Council) Self Regulatory code of conduct under the IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India).

The crypto players recently released a full-page ad in the Economic Times.

In July, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Centre, SEBI, and others, in a plea seeking the setting up of guidelines or rules for domestic cryptocurrency exchange advertising on televisions.

Many Crypto exchange players claim things like ‘safe, quality checked crypto’ in their communication.

However, is it okay to make such claims when the environment around the core product is volatile? Is there a need for crypto exchange players to be more transparent in their communication?    

Gaurav Dahake

According to Gaurav Dahake, Co-founder and CEO, Bitbns, in a situation where people are sceptical about the category, the ads do need to be more educational in nature.

 “As one of the leading crypto exchanges in India, we are continuously trying to create more and more awareness for crypto as an asset class. It reflects in all the ads that we create, whether it is video or any other form. While there is a lot of scepticism about the crypto investment, it is mainly due to crypto as an asset class being relatively newer for investors. A large set of populations are still not aware of why and how one can invest in cryptocurrencies. In this scenario, any advertisements related to crypto needs to be more awareness driven. India is a growing market, and so the interest in crypto is on the rise. However, I believe that any guidelines related to Ads by concerned authorities are to be followed by the industry. We believe more interdepartmental coalition is required between crypto exchanges, regulatory bodies or concerned authorities need to come up with more wholesome guidelines on crypto advertising which will benefit the exchanges as well as the investors,” he said.

Another executive from a leading crypto exchange player who did not wish to be named said the space needs more clarity from different stakeholders. Currently, there are no restrictions with regards to airing ads on TV.

The executive said ads are usually 30 seconds long and the crypto world is large and everything about it cannot be communicated in 30 seconds. “We have various initiatives that educate them about the crypto world once they download the app. While the content of the ads can be explored and improved, educating the audience in a short span is difficult,” the spokesperson added.

Rajesh Ramaswamy

Rajesh Ramaswamy, Founder, The Script Room, said the purpose of these ads is to make the viewers curious rather than educating. He said if players do try and educate, the ads may instead come across as misleading since it is a volatile space.

“There is this kind of suspicious attitude towards the category and the same happened towards the education sector. People were wondering what exactly Byju’s and WhiteHatjr are when they were bombarded with ads. If you see these ads, (crypto exchange) they are not misleading. They are talking to a target audience that is more adventurous. I don’t think people see the ads and make conclusions. They read up more about it, in fact, my own evolution was like that,” he stated.

The experts believe that given the question over the legality of cryptocurrency in India on whether it's an asset class or a currency among several other issues, the exchanges on their own should communicate in their ads that crypto is still an unregulated product.

"Both SEBI and consumer affairs ministry should immediately make their stand clear on it. Crypto exchanges are now major advertisers. Consumer need to be made aware of the legal status of crypto," said a marketing expert who did not wish to be named.

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