Feb 23, 2022 - Economy & Business

Coinbase CEO in hot water for another Twitter mishap

Coinbase founder and CEO Brian Armstrong. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Coinbase got a lot of attention — and new users — after running that Super Bowl ad of a QR code bouncing around the screen.

Yes, but: On Monday night, the cryptocurrency exchange's marketing win lost a little luster, after CEO Brian Armstrong fumbled a Twitter thread bragging about the origins of the ad spot.

Why it matters: Twitter missteps aren't uncommon for tech executives, but for a fintech like Coinbase — seeking to be a major player in finance — this kind of unforced error could appear amateurish.

What happened: In a 12-tweet thread, Armstrong said Coinbase was initially pitched "a bunch of standard Super Bowl ad ideas" by an outside agency and didn't like them. They brainstormed instead.

  • "No ad agency would have done this ad," Armstrong tweeted.

The intrigue: But an agency did have the idea of using a QR code, Kristen Cavallo, CEO of The Martin Agency, said in a reply to Armstrong's sixth tweet:

  • Coinbase's ad "was actually inspired by presentations our agency showed your team on 8/18 (pages 19-24) and 10/7 (pages 11-18) with ad concepts for the Super Bowl floating QR codes on a blank screen." Her reply got thousands more likes than Armstrong's initial missive.

Go deeper: Coinbase's chief marketing officer, Kate Rouch, replied to Cavallo — with five more tweets — hours later. She said the company had indeed worked with an agency, Accenture Interactive, in creating its ad. "Our CEO actually thought we were a single team when presenting work," she wrote.

  • "Multiple agencies — including The Martin Agency — pitched us ideas that included QR codes for several different campaigns," she added.
  • Armstrong also fired off a final tweet about 12 hours after his first, acknowledging they had help from "a creative firm."

Flashback: It's not the first time Armstrong has come under fire for his tweets. Last fall, when the SEC effectively killed Coinbase’s proposed lending product, saying it should be regulated as a security, he tweeted that he didn't see how a lending product could be a security.

  • Then, in an apparent "subtweet," the SEC shared a video explaining what bonds are and how they work.

The bottom line: Unless you're Elon Musk, Twitter miscalculations can quickly turn into PR misfires.

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