*Wizard King flyer image belongs to South Park Digital Studios

Magic Internet Money: How a Reddit ad made Bitcoin hit $1000 and inspired South Park’s art department.

Paul Bars
Paul Bars
Feb 13, 2017 · 5 min read

February 18, 2013 (1 BTC = $26)
Bitcoin subreddit moderator /u/theymos created a thread asking the community to submit ideas for a Reddit ad for /r/bitcoin. Within an hour of the request, /u/mavensbot introduced to the world an MS Paint drawing of the Magic Internet Money Wizard. Little did they know the influence it would soon have in not only growing the subreddit and becoming the most popular Reddit ad ever, but also being one of the key factors in Bitcoin reaching a valuation of over $1000.

First draft of the Reddit Ad.
Final submitted version.

Why use MS Paint? Was he being lazy and not taking the matter seriously? Shouldn’t he have used Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign instead and followed one of the countless design tips that creatives and agencies live by? F*** no! If you were to hire a marketing agency with a team of graphic designers and task them of creating an ad to promote the subreddit, the results would have been no where near what he created. You would have probably gotten an overly thought out abstract concept. Billed a 5 figure sum. And then spent the next 2 months trying to convince yourself that the ad was a success.

November 6, 2013 (1 BTC = $287)
The Magic Internet Money Reddit ad goes live. The subreddit at the time had ~56k subscribers.

/r/bitcoin ad as seen on Reddit’s front page.

The pure simplistic design of the ad caught the eye of the Reddit users visiting the front page of the internet and peaked their curiosity. Traffic to the subreddit page grew. People educated themselves on this decentralized currency, saw the benefits, and began investing in it. By the end of the day, Bitcoin value reached over $300.

November 9, 2013 (1 BTC = $325)
South Park’s art department drafts their hand drawn flyer of Cartman, the Wizard King, that was to be used in episode 7 of season 17 titled Black Friday.

Source: Comedy Central

November 13, 2013 (1 BTC = $416)
The episode is aired and /r/Bitcoin users noticed that South Park paid homage to the Magic Internet Money ad.

Source: Comedy Central/South Park s17e07 Black Friday

Mere coincidence? I think not! Reddit was and still is one of the most popular websites in the USA. The chances that South Park’s creative team saw the ad and got inspired are very high.

Here is an in depth analysis and highly detailed comparison of both ads. The resemblance is uncanny.

In depth analysis and comparison.

November 29, 2013 (1 BTC = $1,132)
22 days after the ad was published, /r/bitcoin had ~74k subscribers, a 36% increase, and Bitcoin reaches a new record high. The world celebrates.

So you must be wondering how can I possibly attribute this Reddit ad as the reason the value of Bitcoin shot to the moon. First of all, the conversion rate of subscribers to /r/bitcoin prior to the ad was hovering around 0.018%, but thanks to the ad, it jumped to 2.753%. In the first 6 months after being published, the ad got 37B impressions. Redditors got the ball rolling, the staff at South Park caught on quickly, and soon did the media. Bitcoin was back in the spotlight as the price and hype began soaring.

The goal was not only to grow the subreddit’s community, but also bring awareness to Bitcoin and its magical properties. As a result, we saw the value jump from $287 to $1132 in just 22 days.

One key takeaway on creating banner ads that convert is understanding your audience. There are countless campaigns that get attention but don’t move the needle. This ad was successful because /u/mavensbot understood what makes Redditors tick. Knowing how to design for specific social networks is something that a lot of graphic designers and marketers seem to miss. /u/Amanojack puts it together well in his comment:

…for reddit the MSPaint ad really hits the sweet spot. It’s hard to explain why, other than to say it’s disarming and charming in all the right ways. It doesn’t feel like self-promotion because it pokes fun at itself, and on reddit that is hugely important I feel, having read reddit for 7 years.

If you’re having doubts of these claims, you don’t have to take my word for it. Just read some of the comments and threads people made for this ad.

Just a few of the top threads opened discussing the ad.
Selected comments from various threads mentioning the ad.

So I leave you with this challenge. Next time you want to create an ad, say “WTF”. Don’t be scared. Test things out. If /u/mavensbot would not have created this ad, who knows what the current state of Bitcoin would have been.

UPDATE Nov 9, 2017: /r/bitcoin has reached 400k subscribers.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/7bps20/09nov2017_rbitcoin_reaches_400000_subscribers/

UPDATE Dec 7, 2017: /r/bitcoin has reached 500k subscribers.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/7i96ur/07dec2017_rbitcoin_reaches_500000_subscribers/

UPDATE Dec 27, 2017: /r/bitcoin has reached 600k subscribers.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/7mfbk9/27dec2017_rbitcoin_reaches_600000_subscribers/

UPDATE Jan 13, 2018: YTCracker released this track on January 10th, 2018. At the time of the release, EOS was trading at ~$9USD. Today, it peaked at $18.71USD. Thanks YTCracker! #digitalgangster

UPDATE Jan 27, 2018: /r/bitcoin has reached 700k subscribers.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/7tcis5/we_just_hit_700k_subs_to_the_moon/

UPDATE Apr 15, 2018: /r/bitcoin has reached 800k subscribers.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/8cd0yv/rbitcoin_just_reached_800000_subscribers/

UPDATE July 25, 2018: /r/bitcoin has reached 900k subscribers.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/91u91e/its_over_900000_rbitcoin_passes_900k_subscribers/

UPDATE Dec 2, 2018: /r/bitcoin has reached 1M subscribers!!!

https://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/a2jz3j/congratulations_on_one_million_subscribers/

Paul Bars

Written by

Paul Bars

2nd person to ever sell a car for Bitcoin.