PepsiCo Planned Space-Based Orbiting Billboard for Gaming Ad Campaign

U.S. soft drinks giant PepsiCo was, until recently, planning to launch a gaming-focused advertising campaign hosted on billboards suspended in space.

If you're not familiar with 'stratosphere advertisements' – also known as 'orbital display ads' – brace yourself.

Russian tech outfit StartRocket plans to releases networks of tiny 'cubesat' satellites into space, which can be arranged into formations that project light back to Earth; perhaps assuming the form of a company logo or slogan. As such, the satellite arrays essentially offer orbiting billboards visible from Earth.

Still doesn't make much sense? We don't blame you. You can get a good idea of the proposed advertising approach in StartRocket's concept video, seen here.

According to a report by Futurism over the weekend, PepsiCo was gearing up to become StartRocket's first customer, and hoped to a deploy a “campaign against stereotypes and unjustified prejudices against gamers” to promote an energy drink called Adrenalin Rush.

At the time, Russian PepsiCo spokesperson Olga Mangova told Futurism via a written statement: “We believe in StartRocket potential [...] Orbital billboards are the revolution on the market of communications. That’s why on behalf of Adrenaline Rush – PepsiCo Russia energy non-alcoholic drink, which is brand innovator, and supports everything new, and non-standard – we agreed on this partnership.”

However, according to subsequent reporting by Gizmodo soon after, a PepsiCo spokesperson revealed in a separate written statement that, for now, the drinks company has no plans to actually hang billboards over the heavens, instead opting to test the technology.

“We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo”, the statement to Gizmodo reads. “This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time.”

StartRocket's websites reveals that the floating billboards would orbit at around 400-500km from Earth, delivering up to four messages a day. The technology is pitched first and foremost as an adverting and promotions platform, but StartRocket also assert that the orbital billboards could be used to display information and even communicate during emergencies and disasters. The company says the CPM for brands would be comparable to television commercials, though presumably stratosphere advertisements could only be used to target huge audiences. Targeted ads is unlikely to be a strength of the approach.

There are also many questions about quantifying reach and impact. Factors such as weather and visibility could also significantly influence the exposure of an ad using StartRocket's satellites.

Looking at the likes of comment threads, public response seems to push back against advertisements that 'pollute' space. There appears to be much upset at the notion of filling the skies with branding, and interfering with the natural beauty of space. Meanwhile, there is some concern that the satellite billboards could interfere with scientific, military, and commercial endeavours in space. Others speculate that the technology will be practically unworkable, and even posit that it is a fiction intended to attract attention.

Regardless, StartRocket plan to start displaying ads in space from 2021.

Things have come along way since having a branded banner towed behind a light aircraft.