drone advertisement
Princess_Anmitsu / Shutterstock.com

If you don’t know that hundreds of illuminated drones filling the sky in a programmed pattern is a new advertising thing, seeing it for the first time can be a bit jarring.

That was the case several months ago when I noticed a seemingly heavenly figure lighting up the sky over Austin during the South by Southwest festival. Since I had no idea yet that this form of advertising existed, my head turned back and forth like a dog with no idea what’s going on.

It didn’t look like an alien invasion, it wasn’t some sort of sentient fireworks show, and I was pretty sure these figures were not birds from the future. But that last one was a pretty good guess, I think.

After standing there staring all night until a meter maid attached a wheel clamp to my leg, it soon became evident these demons in the sky could only be drones. Who knew they’d become so advanced and could work together like synchronized swimmers? I just assumed they were merely a lazy gift you get your nephew.

No Flipping

Master Chief protecting Austin. Chason Gordon

Anyone living in a major city may have seen these drones blocking the stars and raining down advertisements on their defenseless eyes.

Recently the Candy Crush mobile game used 500 of them to get the word over New York City, the NBA did the same in June of last year to advertise the draft (who cares about the draft?), and Genesis, the Hyundai-owned car brand, broke records by flying 3,281 drones over Shanghai in March 2021.

Perhaps the most common image that hundreds of drones form in the sky is the most unoriginal of them all: the QR code, which observers can scan with their phone to find out more about whatever is being advertised. This, unfortunately, will probably be how aliens learn we exist: by scanning a QR code and learning about some new series on the WB network.

It seems like in an age of ad blockers and over-saturation of media, advertisers are trying to reach consumers in ways difficult to ignore, whether it’s something advanced like drone billboards or something basic like those annoying ads that automatically play when you’re pumping gas.

Both Cool and Annoying

Obviously, it’s a bit cool to look at, but more obviously, it could be seen as totally egregious. Maybe it depends on your mood that day. There are blatant concerns regarding light pollution, and the New York City Audubon group is additionally worried that such elaborate drone shows could put synchronized bird shows out of business.

Ok, that’s not what they said–it had something to do with interfering with bird flight patterns. One can imagine these drones easily sending the birds off course, especially if they thought the drones were lining up for some massive Braveheart-like battle in the sky. There are regulations around such things, which is why that Candy Crush show was actually launched from New Jersey, where it’s legal.

What’s depressing is that advertisers will continue trying elaborate ways to force their slogans and logos into our corneas, each successive method harder to ignore than the last. We will see ads in the sky and on the moon and feel an itch on our leg and realize it’s somehow a promoted Tweet for Dove or something.

Perhaps, and just hear me out, if we stop ignoring basic ads on TV and the internet, brands wouldn’t make such invasive moves to advertise their products.

Just kidding, they’ll do it regardless.

Profile Photo for Chason Gordon Chason Gordon
Chason Gordon is a staff writer and editor for How-To Geek. His writing has previously appeared in Slate, Vice, Input, and The Globe and Mail, among others. He currently lives in San Antonio, but is on a month-to-month lease.
Read Full Bio »