January was a much simpler time.
It was an era where an Oscar-winning movie star like Matt Damon could star in an expensive advertisement for Crypto.com (CRCW) , and the internet would, in a rare moment of unity, decide that was good and cool.
Except…(checks notes) that did not turn out to be the case.
Damon’s commercial spot for Crypto.com, which debuted in early January in movie theaters and later played during the Super Bowl, was roundly mocked on Twitter (TWTR) – Get Twitter Inc. Report at the time.
Half a year later, the value of cryptocurrency and related ephemera such as NFTs have plummeted from what now looks like a peak of $3 trillion dollars in November. The crypto market, in total, has lost more than $2 trillion as of this week, and there’s no sign that the bleeding will stop any time soon.
The internet has a long memory for those it deems worthy of scorn, and now it seems that Damon’s crypto ad has inspired a renewed round of mockery. But the reasons for this fresh round of roasting are a bit more complex than mere schadenfreude.
Damon appeared in an advertisement that was part of a $100 million advertising campaign by the Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange app and platform. For his troubles, Crypto.com made a $1 million investment in Damon’s non-profit Water.org, which works to provide access to safe drinking water, according to Bloomberg. He is also an investor in Crypto.com.
Around the same time as the campaign, Crypto.com also paid a reported $700 million to rename the Los Angeles Staples Center the Crypto.com Arena. In retrospect, some analysts believe that probably represented a bit of a warning sign, as these sort of ultra-expensive naming rights maneuvers have historically preceded a crash, as was the case right before both the dot com bubble burst and when Enron went bust.
Damon has been the internet’s whipping boy for quite a while. From making ill-received comments about the diversity of the aspiring directors on the 2015 reboot of his show “Project Greenlight,” to admitting that he didn’t stop referring to gay men as “the f-word” until his daughter told him it was dangerous a few years ago, he is often held up as an avatar of well-meaning but oblivious white privilege.
But while disdain for Damon certainly fueled the mockery, the advertisements were largely roasted at the time due to a growing backlash against all things crypto.
Proponents of cryptocurrency have long held that it was the future of money, and an exciting investment in a stock market that was feeling staid.
But critics insisted that not only are cryptocurrencies bad for the environment due to the high amount of energy needed to fuel them, but the entire industry had no real value beyond hype, speculation, and marketing.
Let’s just say that the detractors have not softened their sentiment in the months since Damon’s spot dropped.
Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather Also Take Heat
Cryptocurrencies are often derided as playthings for the wealthy, so when news breaks that the value of bitcoin has dropped by 60%, there’s large swaths of Twitter who react with spiteful glee.
But here’s the thing that often gets ignored. Plenty of regular, working class people without a great fortune at their disposal also invested in crypto, in hopes of paying off their debts, earning enough to buy a house, or to otherwise secure a safety cushion for the future.
Twitter is now filled with people telling stories about their dashed hopes and fears that the last chance they had to pay off their college debts have gone away.
So the renewed Twitter vitriol serves as a way to vent at an industry that has taken advantage of desperate people who feel they got the short end of the economic stick, and celebrities who often do not understand the investments they are endorsing.
Damon is not the only celebrity getting roasted online for helping to sell crypto to people who ended up losing their shirts.
Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather and socialite Kim Kardashian are currently facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly misleading investors and illegally boosting the price of the crypto token EthereumMax. The lawsuit was filed in Jan. 7 in Los Angeles federal court, and is still pending.
“The company’s executives, collaborating with several celebrity promoters … made false or misleading statements about EthereumMax through social media advertisements and other promotional activities,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit singles out a June 2021 Instagram post by Kardashian. “Are you guys into crypto?” she wrote in the post, followed by the disclaimer “this is not financial advice”, but that she wanted to share “what my friends just told me” about the EthereumMax tokens. Mayweather wore boxing trunks that endorsed EthereumMax during a highly publicized match against Logan Paul.
The actor Ben McKenzie, best known to old millennials for playing Ryan Atwood on “The O.C.” now has a sideline as an author and critic who takes celebrities to task for endorsing products without understanding their volatile nature, and has particularly singled out NFTs, even asking Reese Witherspoon to stop hyping Crypto.
As if to prove McKenzie’s point, socialite Paris Hilton’s very obviously forced and stilted conversation with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” from earlier this year is now being viewed as both the height of the Bored Ape Yacht Club trend, and the moment the public began to turn against NFTs.
At one point the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection would regularly trade for millions from investors. It’s been dropping in price rapidly since, and now Bored Ape NFTs trade for less than $100,000.
Many of these big names and many others, including Tom Brady and Ashton Kutcher, may now regret being associated with a trend that, at best, now looks passé and absurd. But Twitter isn’t going to let any of them forget.