Are Paid Ads a Viable Marketing Strategy In Web3? During this bear market, Web3 marketing needs a wake-up call: paid ads are the answer

By Arvin Khamseh

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As the Web3 ethos—decentralization, transparency, and autonomy—takes hold, many preach that the time has come to put paid ads to rest. If anything screams old-fashioned Web2 mindset, paid advertising is an easy target. Paid advertising does not hold the same allure as memes, organic Discord communities, or exclusive whitelists.

However, we're in a bear market now, and times are changing. Whereas even earlier this year all it took was establishing a large Discord, Twitter, and Telegram presence to create whitelist buyers that would reliably sell out projects, that moment has passed. Hyped projects end up floundering in the wind when minting begins.

We need to return to the fundamentals. In an emerging industry too often manipulated by empty hype, paid ads are often much more honest and effective. As a consultant, I've worked with public Web2 companies for up to $500,000 a month and helped over 400 NFT projects develop their launch plans with my team at soldoutnfts.io. I'm here to confirm:

There is a clear path toward effective paid ad strategy for NFT mints and, even if it goes against the current orthodoxy, it's too important not to share it widely with all Web3 creators. Here's how to create sold-out projects with real impact and a sustainable marketing budget.

How Internet Advertising Was Born

On a conceptual level, advertising has most likely been with us since the earliest days of the written word. However, when it comes to the Internet, online paid advertising began in earnest in 1994 when the first banner ad appeared on HotWired, the online portal at the time for Wired magazine. It was the transformational step that led to online advertising becoming a $24 billion business today.

Ads built the empires of Web2 giants like Facebook, providing ad clients with unprecedented data on those buying their products. Antonio García Martínez, who built Facebook's ad system before their IPO, makes it clear through his Substack The Pull Request: "The attention economy has always had its ledger and its cash register, and Web 3 will be no different."

Simply put, organic reach will never secure your project the consistent traffic it needs to sell out. I wouldn't recommend projects to only do paid ads—all founders should do everything in their power to sell out on mint. Paid ads, though, are one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to incentivize builders, new projects, and new technology to enter the space.

There's no point in investing time and money into web development, smart contract development, and artwork if you're not going to spend the same effort spreading the word about the incredible project you've created. A lack of a coherent marketing plan causes a critical loss of control at the most crucial point in your project's lifecycle. With paid ads, founders can dictate exactly who sees the project's content through filters for country, age, gender, interests, and more.

While there's plenty of resistance from Web3 entrepreneurs who hope to turn away from the flaws of the previous generation, it would be a mistake to sweep paid advertising into the dustbin of history.

Are Paid Ads Still Effective in the Web3 Era?

Most NFT founders approach the subject of paid ads with mixed opinions. They've usually committed low-level ad spending and never saw results, or are purely working off the speculation of other influencers in the space who are completely anti-ad.

There's also the vocal contingent of elite founders, whose projects constantly sell out based on hype alone, who push new creators away from ads. The truth is: those elite, Blue Chip founders just don't want to admit that there are paths to selling out that don't involve them.

There are a few main arguments against paid ads. Here, I'll provide counterarguments for all of them.

Paid Ads Show Desperation

Real desperation is when a project doesn't sell. Without paid ads, project founders resort to far weirder means to gain momentum, like trading NFTs with other brands, buying from themselves, and creating bots to purchase their NFTs to hide the fact that they are cannibalizing their own mint.

Additionally, sales visible on the smart contract provide a transparent and accurate path to calculating ROAS (return on ad spend). Just like in e-commerce, founders can see exactly how much in sales their ad spend netted. In this way, paid ads are useful at all stages of minting and even beyond sellout to increase the floor price.

Buyers Don't Hold the NFTs Long Term

The best way to create long-term holders is to ensure your project has real utility. People hold NFTs because they continue to receive rewards, airdrops, or other benefits that prove the project is more than just a flash in the pan. Creating a robust and useful project should be baked into every project roadmap, regardless of ad spend.

Organic reach and paid reach interact with the same population on social media, but paid reach allows for more selective targeting. This, in turn, leads to a better chance of creating a stable, invested community. My clients have told me that buyers who arrived through the paid ads became some of the most active community members on their Discord. In the end, even if a buyer later sells the NFT, additional royalties still flow into the project and this doesn't affect goal number one: selling out on mint.

Paid Ads Generate Negative Reactions

When you advertise your project to millions of people, it's natural to expect some hate. The NFT space generates many negative reactions regardless of the post, paid or not. Founders can always alter their ad targeting, but even then this should not be of the highest concern. Just look at Twitter users like Elon Musk. He has more haters than most people—and yet he still has over one hundred million followers. In the NFT world, I've been on Twitter Spaces where people talk down on even the most successful of Blue Chip collections. Social media is inherently hostile, so don't worry about that—just sell your project.

Similarly, paid ads often cause anxiety for founders over the issue of maintaining brand integrity. Many projects believe ads will ruin their image. However, just think about the amount of paid chatter and bots that flood most NFT projects and Twitter followings. Web3 influencers don't even have to disclose whether or not they're paid to promote something.

Paid ads, on the other hand, carry the "promoted badge" under all posts, a far more honest approach. Don't hide behind the illusion of purity—let your project speak for itself.

Certified Success

Twitter, Meta, Reddit, and YouTube already have growing NFT teams, even in the bear market. These companies roll out advanced features for projects with ad spend over $50k, because they know that ads work for NFTs. It's important to acquire your NFT certificate on these platforms so your project can run paid ads. Achieving this legitimacy can be one of the most difficult steps for any project to face, which is why soldoutnfts.io zeroes in on helping our clients achieve this status as soon as possible.

Still on the fence? The proof is in the process itself.

Recyclable Revenue

Through my work on over 400 NFT projects, I've uncovered the formula for recyclable revenue. My team at soldoutnfts.io provides a consulting call to get the project ready to receive an NFT certificate, build out simple and effective ad copy, and hire a talented video editor. I know what works because I've watched from the ground floor as successful projects emerged from humble beginnings.

As a proof of concept, look no further than the Hangry Hippos sell-out mint, on which I advised. This is a project that never went to zero, didn't rug pull on their dedicated community, and delivered on every promise on their roadmap before getting verified on OpenSea due to their ETH volume.

ROAS for the Hippos started at ten dollars per dollar spent and eventually settled at three dollars per dollar spent. With three paid video ads rolled out in three phases across the mint, the project recycled revenue from phase one to pay for ad spend on phase two, repeating the process once again for phase three.

In the end, the Hippos sold out their entire mint for close to a million dollars utilizing this ad strategy. Check out my linked case study to see the process broken down even further. This isn't the only project to succeed using this strategy and it is not stale or overcooked—using this recyclable revenue approach is like getting in on the Facebook ad game back in 2009. This is the prime time to run ads on Web3 projects before the market catches up with you.

Paid Ads, Real Growth

While paid ads for NFTs may have started out as a way for projects to bail out their flatlining mints, there is so much more potential across the entire lifetime of a project mint and beyond. Most project founders just don't know how to properly run ads or become certified on official platforms to do so. That's why soldoutnfts.io wants to provide the instruction.

Web2 and Web3 should be differentiated, but not everything that worked before should be discarded. Most people on the planet do not yet know what Web3 even is, let alone NFT mints. It's time to reduce the inertia it takes to become invested in NFTs and discover great projects. With paid ads that link directly to mint pages, bypass the complexity and bring your buyers straight to the project itself. Paid NFT ads are a healthy addition to the NFT space, and I dare anyone to prove the contrary.

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