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Image of Coinbase QR Code Super Bowl Ad
Image of Coinbase QR Code Super Bowl Ad

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Advertising agency accuses Coinbase of idea theft

The US-based cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase’s 60-second super bowl ad was a massive hit, but it was accused of copying someone else’s idea without giving credit to the company that came up with the concept.

In February, the exchange aired a simple colorful QR code that floated on the screen for a minute which could be scanned to redeem $15 worth of free Bitcoin and a chance to win US$3 million.

The commercial went viral in a matter of hours, crashing the company's server. In response to the advert's popularity, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong began a Twitter thread to congratulate his company, claiming that the ad was created in-house by brainstorming a " bunch of wild ideas," and that no agency could have come up with the concept.

However, Kristen Cavallo, CEO of the Martin Agency, a US-based creative advertising agency, was quick to refute Brian's assertions, commenting in the same thread that it was her team who submitted the idea to the company while providing some details about it.

Her comment was first ignored by the CEO, but later Kate Rouch, Coinbase's chief marketing officer, responded to Kristen, writing, “Multiple agencies – including The Martin Agency – pitched us ideas that included QR codes for several different campaigns,” but “none of the ideas from any of our partners were conceptually what we were looking for and remained on the cutting room floor.”

Kristen decided to take a positive attitude after receiving a negative response from Coinbase, but she couldn't ignore the CEO's remark that said "no agency would have done this ad."

She wrote a LinkedIn post about the Coinbase episode which argued that she was not asking for credit and agreed that multiple agencies can come up with same ideas. However, that doesn’t imply that the industry can be neglected. Professionals in this industry are creative and strategic thinkers who increase brand awareness and deepen customer relationships. The whole idea of the post was aimed at respecting the industry and its people.

This is an excellent example of why innovators and creators should register their work before sharing it with their customers or the public, rather than going for a costly and cumbersome process of filing a lawsuit after your work is copied.

PitchMark helps innovators deter idea theft, so that clients get the idea but don’t take it. Visit and register for free as a PitchMark member today. 




Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

Press contact Managing Partner (+65) 6223 2249

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