The bankruptcy of cryptocurrency firm FTX is ongoing, and this week included the release of documents that list the company’s biggest investors, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Patriots lost boy Tom Brady, and recent New England ex-pat Gisele Bündchen. Brady was a brand ambassador for FTX, and he and Gisele did a series of commercials for the company which aired in late 2021, even as the company first hit the skids. Given the total failure of FTX, Brady and Bündchen—and Robert Kraft but I care even less about him—are wiped out, at least for the shares they invested in that exchange (over 1.1 million for him, and over 686,000 for her, which I guess makes Gisele slightly smarter).
Money is fake and the only crypt I’m investing in is the one my skeleton will occupy when the rest of me returns to the dirt, but I am watching the crypto implosion(s) with a keen eye. Why? Because of all the f-cking celebrity endorsements! Matt Damon’s goddamned Super Bowl ad that basically said you’re a wimp and coward and the shame of your ancestors if you don’t invest in crypto! Celebrities have hawked some weird sh-t over the years, but the mass-celeb cliff diving adventure known as crypto endorsements is unique in that this is the first time I can remember a wide swath of A-listers endorsing fraud. Like, it’s just fraud! It’s not even a lousy tabletop grill or moisturizer that doesn’t do anything, it’s FRAUD!
Besides losing whatever the value of FTX shares were—rocks? Is it just rocks?—Brady and Bündchen, among other celebrity endorsers, might still be on the hook for their role in promoting crypto to retail investors, aka the regular John and Jane Does who don’t have millions, let alone billions, to buy digital rocks with. A California judge recently dismissed one case brought against celebrity endorsers, including Kim Kardashian, of MaxEthereum—all these crypto things have the stupidest names ever, I’m going to start selling people BoneCelereum which is worth, I’ve decided, $10 million per share—but in his ruling stated that the suit “raises legitimate concerns over celebrities' ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach”. He also noted that the investors can amend and refile their class action, which they intend to do, to better demonstrate how celebrity endorsements drove the crypto bubble.
That’s worth keeping an eye on, but so is the other side of this fake digital coin, which is the rise of the celebrity anti-spokesperson. In the crypto space, that is Ben McKenzie, the once and future Ryan Atwood, who turned his online skepticism of crypto into a second career as an anti-spokesperson. Here is McKenzie testifying before the senate in December:
I have never heard a celebrity crypto spokesperson clearly define what the f-ck crypto even is, but Ben McKenzie outlined it, and its fraudulent underpinnings, clearly and concisely. (His book is next on my to-read pile.) As I’ve mentioned before, when traditional revenue streams for celebrities dry up, they don’t learn to live on less, they find new revenue streams. In the 2000s, the collapse of home video/rental royalties is what drove celebrities into the lifestyle and/or alcohol brand space. Throughout the 2010s, as theatrical profit-sharing became less common, we saw celebrities turning to the skincare and beauty markets. As those markets oversaturated, though, celebrities jumped on the crypto ship, and now we’re watching that unravel.
This makes me wonder what the next endorsement fad will be, but also if there will ever be another anti-spokesperson. Crypto has been a disaster for celebrities, with one clear exception. McKenzie has reinvented himself beyond acting, though if he doesn’t star in the inevitable Adam McKay movie about FTX, then I don’t know what we’re doing here. But will we see the rise of an anti-spokesperson in, say, the skincare space, taking down overpriced celebrity serums? Could the trend of the 2020s be the anti-spokesperson, celebrities who inject common sense into overhyped products and fads? I hope so, because I genuinely cringe to think what dumb sh-t the celebs are going to try to sell us next.
Live long and gossip,