Neighbour’s Envy, Owner’s Pride

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

During the IPL 2022 Final (on Sunday), I couldn’t help but notice the number of advertisements of the New Modern Casino Operators. There was a healthy mix of trading, and gamebling (aka gambling) ads. One of them was a Stock Trading app called StockGro – making investment social. Another one was by Winzo in which Dhoni comes and promotes the product. The disclaimer in the advertisement was so fast that one couldn’t even understand what was said. The third one was by FanCraze in which Shreyas Iyer and Rohit Sharma nudge you to collect and trade Cricket NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). This brings me to a post that my colleague and our CTO Satish Joshi wrote a couple of weeks back.

Remember this advertisement by Onida TV in the early days of the TV Industry in India.

It was a very successful ad because it was a departure from all advertising conventions until that time. It said not ONE word about the virtues of the product itself. Its message was simple – Make your neighbour envy you by buying this product! And why would your neighbour envy you? Because you are proud to own it. And why are you proud to own it? Because your neighbour envies you!

I was reminded of this because of an extremely widely aired advertisement in the US that features Stephen Curry – the Basketball star. Stephen Curry is as big a sports star in the US as Virat Kohli is (or was given his current struggles) in India. The number of his fans and followers (ranging in the millions) on social media will rival the followership of even Elon Musk.

In this advert. Curry is being repeatedly grilled by an interviewer to tell the viewers what he knows about cryptocurrencies. And Curry repeatedly keeps saying “I don’t know anything man, I am a basketball player and all I know is how to play basketball.” In the end, Curry pulls out his mobile phone and shows a crypto trading app called FTX Pro and says “I’m not an expert—and I don’t need to be. With FTX, I have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely.”

And this is not an isolated advert. There has been a blitzkrieg of adverts featuring other well-known faces giving similar messages in American (as well as Indian) media – conventional and digital both.

These ads conspicuously omit anything about the substantive merits of crypto. And they are clearly targeted at people who have hesitated to trade crypto because they don’t understand it.

The message to them is two-fold:

  1. Don’t worry, neither does Stephen Curry! And perhaps, by extension, neither does anyone else! If everyone else is operating in ignorance, maybe you’re not at any big disadvantage. So, go ahead, trade away.
  2. They try to instil a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), by suggesting that viewers who don’t buy in now will come to regret it.

Their message too is “Neighbour’s Envy, Owner’s Pride”!

In short, forget about what real investing is or the process of investing. If you want to become rich then as the Curry commercial says – Forget the fundamentals: For most investors therefore, deciding to buy a certain asset (Crypto, Stocks, Gold or anything else) need be no more than a pure gamble that someone else will want to buy it for more money in the future.

And as an engineer what irks me the most is, technology is being paraded to lend legitimacy to this way of investing your hard-earned money – “Shoot and ask questions afterwards”. That is exactly what Stephen Curry says in his advert – “With FTX, I have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely.

You don’t need any rational basis for putting down your money, the technology has made it “SAFE” despite your ignorance! You can afford to be dumb, ignorant, irrational because as long as you have a smartphone, the technology will make you as rich as Warren Buffet.

Well, it won’t! And here is why –

Stephen Curry can afford to be ignorant and irrational and play Russian roulette with his smartphone, because he makes hundreds of millions of dollars by utilizing what he knows well – playing basketball. He gets paid millions of dollars for saying “I’m not an expert—and I don’t need to be” without any contingent obligation to actually spend money on buying crypto using the FTX App which is supposed to “have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely.”

And even if he does so to amuse himself, that would make no dent in his wealth!

You can’t. We can’t. Because we are not Stephen Curry! And technology cannot compensate for lack of knowledge, no matter what the current hype about Artificial Intelligence claims.

I loved this post and I hope you do too. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

On that note remember that GAMBLEIFICATION is the NEW GAMIFICATION or Gamification is the New Gambleification.

Either way, both sound about right.