NFT certification: the beginning of crypto communication?

Luca Bianconi Art Director & Creative Unit Supervisor

People first began talking about NFTs in 2017 and they seemed so incredible and abstract to me that I almost expected them to go the same way as Second Life and Google Glass. It’s been three years, though, and now, wherever you turn, people are talking about them. This “phenomenon” is changing and evolving every day, pushing its potential boundaries further and further, so I can’t help but wonder: could we use NFT certification in digital advertising? (It’s probably worth certifying the answer).

FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHAT ARE NFTS?

NFTs, an acronym of “non-fungible tokens”, are digital certificates of ownership stored on a blockchain, technology that became famous with cryptocurrencies. In a nutshell, NFTs are digital information, a kind of encrypted token which, when purchased, becomes a certificate of ownership and authenticity registered in a blockchain. In digital art, for example, NFTs certify the artist’s signature, therefore recognising the work’s authenticity and ownership which can be sold.

BEEPLE, THE FIRST CRYPTO ARTIST

Beeple, aka Mike Winkelmann, is a 39-year-old American graphic designer and digital artist with more than 2 million followers on Instagram. Beeple was one of the pioneers of the digital art revolution. On 11 March 2021, a digital collection of 5000 of his Photoshop and Cinema 4D creations was auctioned off at Christie’s for more than $69 million, breaking the world record for crypto art.

A GIF WORTH HALF A MILLION DOLLARS AND BANKSY IN FLAMES: GENIUS OR FOLLY?

That this phenomenon could be the new way forward was to be expected. But who could have foreseen that a GIF of Nyan Cat, the famous rainbow cat, would be put up for auction on the Foundation platform and sell for around $600,000? Or that one of Banksy’s painting would be bought by a blockchain company for $95,000, certified NFT and then burnt in a live-streamed video on YouTube to increase the value of the digital encrypted work and be auctioned off for $380,000? Maybe things are getting out of hand.

ARE THERE REALLY NO LIMITS?

Everything can be NFT certified: a song, film, video, book and even a Tweet. Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, will go down in history for auctioning off his very first Tweet, converted into NFT for $3 million. Thanks goodness that in this particular case all the proceeds went to charity.

EVEN TROPHIES CAN BECOME DIGITAL

The futuristic Russian artist Pokras Lampas recently presented the Gazprom award. It will be the first digital NFT-certified trophy in the history of world football and will be awarded for the “best goal of Euro 2020”.

WHAT DO BRANDS THINK OF NFTS?

Many brands are following suit and embracing NFTs. On 27 June, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Juventus sold its Home 2021/2022 jersey in its digital 3D version, autographed by all the members of the squad, on the NFT Pro marketplace. Mattel is auctioning off three pieces of virtual digital art of its classic Hot Wheels cars, which can be purchased on the Ethereum website and kept in digital wallets. There are also auctions of virtual sneakers and clothes from brands like RTFKT and The Fabricant which can “only be worn online” (reminds you of Second Life?). Jacob & Co. has released its first-ever NFT watch, again a one-of-a-kind model.

Even the NBA has jumped on the bandwagon: collectors have spent more than $330 million on the dedicated NBAtopshot platform to get their hands on short clips of the best moments of their favourite players. 

A NEW TOOL FOR DIGITAL COMMUNICATION?

In the era of digital communication, it is extremely difficult to certify the intellectual property of online content. Companies are justifiably concerned about protecting what is theirs and creative minds go crazy trying to create original communication projects and protect their authenticity. So I wonder: if we can certify a digital work of art, why can’t we do the same with a campaign, slogan, logo, tagline or any kind of digital communication content? I believe NFTs have the potential to become a great way of protecting authenticity but, more importantly, of offering new marketing opportunities in today’s digital world, where the challenges agencies face on a daily basis to come up with effective strategies and original content and protect them are enormous. 

NFT AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Another important aspect to consider is the heavy environmental impact of NFTs. Like cryptocurrencies, you need a sizeable amount of energy to produce NFT certification, increasing CO2 emissions. If brands are to use this technology responsibly, they need to be fully aware and informed. The future may be bright for these new tools but we need to choose when to use them carefully.