Space advertising is the use of advertising in outer space or related to space flight. While there have only been a few examples of successful marketing campaigns, there have been several proposals to advertise in space, some even planning to launch giant billboards visible from the Earth. Obtrusive space advertising is the term used for such ventures.
The launch of Soyuz TM-11 in 1990 carried Toyohiro Akiyama, a reporter for the Japanese television network Tokyo Broadcasting System. The network paid for his seat on the flight and its logo was featured prominently on the third stage of the Soyuz-U2 launch vehicle. The launch shroud was emblazoned with logos for Sony, Unicharm, and Otsuka Pharmaceutical.
The 1993 "Space Billboard" by the United States-based company Space Marketing Inc. was a proposal for a 1 km² illuminated billboard that would be launched into a low orbit and be visible from Earth. The advertisement would be roughly the same apparent size and brightness as the moon and was to be made from sheets of mylar. It was estimated that it would be impacted by space debris around 10,000 times; this and the inability to attract adequate funding prevented the project from progressing.
In an unusual form of fast food advertising, two Pizza Hut marketing ploys have involved spaceflight. In 2001 they were the first to deliver pizzas to outer space when their vacuum-sealed food arrived at the International Space Station, just a year after signing a deal to have a 30-foot (9 m) Pizza Hut logo placed on the side of the unmanned Proton rocket that launched Zvezda module. Kodak then paid to have their logo and a slogan placed onto a material that was to be tested for durability in space on the outside of the International Space Station.
On February 6, 2018, SpaceX executed the Falcon Heavy Test Flight, the first attempt to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket. As part of this test, a dummy payload was needed and Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster was selected for this purpose. After successful orbit insertion, Musk's own roadster was ejected into a heliocentric orbit. The event was criticized by some as nothing more than a "car commercial" for Tesla, but celebrated by others as "the world's best car ad" and "one of the greatest marketing stunts ever."
In 1993, faced with the Space Billboard project, U.S. Congressman Ed Markey introduced a bill that banned all U.S. advertising in space. This bill was amended to only cover obtrusive advertising, thus allowing sponsorship deals where the logo is placed on the rocket or an astronaut's clothing. Since May 2005 the Federal Aviation Administration has been in charge of enforcing this law.
Before the legislation was introduced there was a public outcry to reports of obtrusive space advertising plans. The problems caused for astronomy due to light pollution, obstructed vision, and radio noise were quickly cited. The inability to easily avoid the advertisements was another great concern, with them being in sight in all locations outside – all other forms of advertising can be turned off or removed somewhat easily. As large billboards would be visible for large distances it would also be impossible to make them visible to only one country.
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Large billboards in space have been featured in several science fiction books, films and television series, most notably the animated series Futurama. They are usually shown as satire of commercialisation.
In Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 novella The Man Who Sold the Moon the protagonist raises funds for his lunar ambitions by publicly describing means of covering the visible lunar face in advertising and propaganda, and then taking money not to do so.
In Isaac Asimov's 1958 short story Buy Jupiter, a group of extraterrestrials broker a deal with the governments of Earth to purchase the planet Jupiter so that they could use it as an advertisement platform to the starships from their worlds that passed by the planet.
A Red Dwarf novel features an advertising campaign whereby a ship is sent on a mission by The Coca-Cola Company to cause 128 stars to go supernova in order to visibly spell the words "Coke Adds Life!" across the sky on earth. The message is intended to last five weeks, and be visible even in daylight.
In the cartoon The Tick Chairface Chippendale attempts to write his name on the moon but fails and only writes the letters "CHA".
In the movie Hancock, the logo of the fictitious All-Heart charity is painted on the moon by the title character.
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- Naomi Klein [@NaomiAKlein] (February 6, 2018). "About Elon's big day... this is a car commercial in space. Everyone: pls stop participating" (Tweet). Retrieved February 12, 2018 – via Twitter.
- Business Insider, 7 February 2018. "Tesla created the world's best car commercial without spending a dime on advertising". Retrieved 9 February 2018.
- AdWeek, 7 February 2018. "With a $0 Ad Budget, Tesla Just Pulled Off One of the Greatest Marketing Stunts Ever". Retrieved 9 February 2018.
- NewRules.org. "Ban on "Obtrusive" Outer-Space Advertising Archived 2006-08-20 at the Wayback Machine.". Retrieved 27 June 2006.
- Kuntzman, Gersh, MSNBC, 20 June 2005. "Space Invaders – The FAA is protecting us from 'obtrusive' ads in deep space. Who knew?". Retrieved 4 July 2006. Archived April 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- "51 U.S. Code § 50911 - Space advertising". LII / Legal Information Institute.
- International Astronomical Union, 18 December 2001. "Obtrusive space advertising and astronomical research" (PDF) paragraphs 23 – 28. Retrieved 27 June 2006.
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