Re: What can you spend the tokens on?
I wouldn't call any of the, mostly thoughtful, posts above "rants" about anything. But this being a thread about digital currency, people are mostly discussing Bitcoin.
To answer your question, it's almost certainly a scam.
The people who created Bitcoin got rich*, by owning the first coins. Which they granted themselves effectively for free - and then as the currency took off, they owned a nice chunk of it. And that was a thing, and Bitcoin succeeded to some extent, so you can argue they earned that money. After all, they'd invented a new thing, or at least a new way of doing an old thing, and people found it useful, and so used it.
Then Etherium and a few other Bitcoin clones came along. And some of them actually get used. Heaven knows why, because Bitcoin already existed. And presumably those people knew about the first Bitcoiners doing so well, and so wanted a piece of that action themselves - rather than just using Bitcoin. But I guess they put the right unique features into theirs, that people would use it. Apart from the ones that failed of course.
But now? It's a crowded market. Maybe nobody thinks they can successfully start a new thingy-coin and get other people to actually use it. And if nobody joins in, they don't get rich from having the first few blocks. Sad. This way you just get people to give you money straight out. Hooray! Then if your coin-thing is shit/unpopular/unlucky, who cares. You've already been paid!
They've like and unlike shares. More like the kind of shares venture capitalists buy. When Facebook did their IPO, you had a company that was turning over something like $10bn a year, and making a billion or two of profits. So you knew that if you bought shares in it, you were buying a share of something profitable. It might not last, or it might be hideously over-priced, but it was an existing enterprise, with buildings, and staff and network infrastructure and customers. The first VCs who bought into it got a share, but it was a much more notional value. So maybe they guessed it would be worth $100m, took 5% and so offered $5 million. The IPO was for a value of $100bn, so these notional people would have turned $5m into $5bn! But they've probably put a lot of $5m stakes into companies, and I believe the going rate for tech VCs is you make 10 investments for a tiny return on 1, losing everything on 8 and get a fat profit on 1 that covers the rest.
So if you buy into an ICO, you're trusting that these people have a good business plan, know what they're doing, can get the software right, can get customers and aren't just out to steal your cash. VCs do this by having lots of meetings, getting lots of references and maybe helping with the bits of the business plan the company can't handle themselves. Plus getting a seat on the board, so they can keep an eye out. Investors into an ICO are just hoping to get rich* quick.
Company scrip is different. The deal was to under-pay your miners/factory workers. You issued the currency, but that could only be spent in the company shops and pubs. This meant you could sell to them for a guaranteed profit. So you were effectively paying them in goods, not cash. But if you were too stingy, they could work out what they were getting, and bugger off to the factory down the road. And if you ever stopped paying, you went bust for lack of workers.
This ad-coin thingy is just selling the hope that other people will use the coins. Unless they give a legal guarantee that their company will honour them at a fixed rate - then at least you know they go bust if they steal your money.
*For a given value of rich. My quick look at exchanges yesterday showed none that had traded more than a couple of thousand dollars in a day. So that means none of them had converted even a single Bitcoin into real cash. So if you've got 1,000BTC, theoretically worth $4 million, you'd struggle tor realise much more than 1BTC worth of it a day - and that would have to be into a mix of dollars, yen, Euros, pounds and Yuan. The Yuan isn't freely convertible, so useless unless you have a Chinese bank account. Transaction and currency conversion is probably going to cost you about 10% of your fortune - and it's going to take you years to realise your cash. Try selling even 10 BTC and you may materially affect the price. Try selling 100 in a week - you may find you've crashed it.