April 16, 2019

Pepsi considers giant space billboard for its energy drink

Pepsi and a Russian startup called StartRocket partnered to test out a new, space-based billboard for an energy drink.

In partnership with space-advertising startup StartRocket, PepsiCo briefly transformed the sky into an advertisement for its new energy drink, Adrenaline Rush, in a test involving a stratospheric balloon (Pepsi spokespeople say it was a one-time test).

A soda ad in space sounds like a dark, dystopian joke out of a Don DeLillo novel. But, thanks to this space-case startup, space ads could soon be very real — and people aren’t pleased.

Advertising’s final frontier

Starry-eyed entrepreneurs have dreamed up ways to put advertisements alongside the stars for decades, but high costs have prevented these schemes from leaving the stratosphere.

But now that the cost of satellites has finally fallen, StartRocket has designed a system that will use tiny, reflective satellites as space-pixels to project images in the night sky for 8 hours at a time for $20k.

“Andy Warhol said: ‘The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s.’ Space has to be beautiful,” reads StartRocket’s website. “With the best brands our sky will amaze us every night.”

The company considers itself a new media company that will make the night sky more beautiful — but not everyone agrees that McDonald’s ads in space will be “beautiful.”

Counterfeit constellations

Look at the beautiful night sky, son — it’s the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, and… an ad for Pepsi’s new energy drink?

But space ads are more than interstellar eyesores: Scientists warn that adding satellites into low orbit increases the risk of dangerous collisions with the growing amount of space junk floating around overhead.

Pepsi’s partnership was only a test, and Pepsi has no plans to pursue further projects with StartRocket. But the test opened up space for other businesses to shoot for the stars.

America banned space-based advertising in 1993, but Russia has no laws preventing StartRocket from plastering the cosmos with ads for fast food.

[Update: Journalist Jon Christian reached out to let us know that Pepsi’s test with StartRocket involved a balloon, not an entire orbital array. This post has been updated to reflect this information.]

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