Persuasion in advertising: Larry David's FTX ad in Super Bowl 56

A clever use of a well-established public character creates the night's most memorable ad

The Super Bowl has a long tradition of showcasing what is supposed to be the advertising industry’s best work. Unfortunately, the ads shown at Super Bowl 56 between the Rams and Bengals, did not have much to commend them. There was one exception, however, the ad for cryptocurrency firm FTX, which featured the comic Larry David.

In the ad, David is shown in various guises at various moments in history denigrating what turned out to be great ideas — from the first wheel to the first lightbulb. You can see the ad below:

What struck me about the ad was its clever use of one of the three modes of persuasion, in this case, character, specifically the character’s history. By first establishing the inability of this individual to see great ideas time and time again, the ad sets up a nice foil against which to place its main message: “Don’t miss out.” Helping to make the ad persuasive is David’s character, which is often portrayed as a curmudgeonly know-it-all. Indeed, the up-ending of this persona helps to give the ad its impact. As David Schaffer, the ad’s director noted about David in an interview: “Who better to belittle the sum of human achievement – and be wrong?”

The spot is so light-hearted that it seems, a first, to lack much persuasive force, but I think it makes its point to the viewer quite well: you have been wrong about a lot of things in the past, so is there any chance you may be wrong about crypto? It’s a provocative question from the night’s most memorable, and surprisingly thought-provoking, advertisement.