When I was a kid and prone to shining flashlights into the night sky just to imagine their beams reaching into the universe into perpetuity, there was a rumor that some big corporate entity was researching the possibility of advertising on the moon. This, of course, came out at about the same time that other urban myths started rolling off the rumor mill—like the one about Bubble Yum being made out of spider eggs or how Life Cereal’s Mikey died from combining Pop Rocks with Coca-Cola.
I’m embarrassed to say that in my advertising-saturated mindscape at the time it didn’t seem like a particularly weird idea. Thirty years later, of course, the thought of projecting advertising onto the moon for commercial purposes seems as absurd as the late-great author David Foster Wallace’s idea of having corporations sponsor years—the Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishwasher, say, or the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.
I was reminded of this ten years ago when articles started coming out about how a Coca-Cola executive named Steve Koonin had conceived a plan to use NASA laser technology to shoot colored beams into space in order to form the Coke logo on the lunar surface just in time for the Times Square Ball to drop. Shot down by the FAA, who pointed out that the lasers just might cut airplanes in half, Koonin reluctantly shelved the idea.
All of which is to say: What the freak!
Celebrity advertising, of course, has been with us for a long time—whether in the form of Judy Garland washing with Lux Toilet Soap in 1941, John Wayne smoking Camels in 1954, Andy Warhol flying Braniff Airlines in 1971, or Tina Fey charging office equipment on American Express in 2008. These person-to-product endorsements feed off celebrity aura in a fairly direct way—something that stands in vast distinction to what LVMH is doing in its ads. Rather than relating its product to celebrity, the company is actually aligning itself with seismic changes in history: The fall of communism in one instance, sending Humans to the moon in the other.
A decade ago, Apple’s Think Different campaign attempted to do a similar thing by using the likenesses of Gandhi, Picasso, MLK and Martha Graham, among others—historical heroes who, one would guess, would have been quick to reject being co-opted by the company had they been alive to field the request. The fact that Gorbachev and Aldrin actually agreed to participate in the campaign is, well, upsetting—even if LVMH maintains that it is donating an undisclosed percentage of profits to Al Gore’s Climate Project on their behalf.
For those who miss the days of lunar-laser fantasies, however, there’s reason to take heart. A company aptly called Moon Publicity is offering buy-in on a new “Shadow Shaping” technology that employs robots that will carve out ridges and valleys on the moon’s surface in order to throw shadows in the form of your favorite logos.