Boycott Pepsi

Do it now, before 2021, because they have plans to pollute the sky.

A Russian company called StartRocket says it’s going to launch a cluster of cubesats into space that will act as an “orbital billboard,” projecting enormous advertisements into the night sky like artificial constellations. And its first client, it says, will be PepsiCo — which will use the system to promote a “campaign against stereotypes and unjustified prejudices against gamers” on behalf of an energy drink called Adrenaline Rush.

Yet another “energy drink”, a campaign to support that <sarcasm>horribly oppressed group</sarcasm>, gamers, and they’re going to do it by putting unwanted glare in the night sky? I already hate Pepsi’s existence. Smart advertising.


  1. numerobis says

    I’m going to need some confirmation beyond a single story before I work up any outrage here.

  2. consciousness razor says

    You can google “StartRocket” (for example) and get many results, including regular news sites that you may trust more than PZ’s link. It looks like there was an earlier wave of stories back in January.

  3. blf says

    Whilst there are numerous stories on “StartRocket” — please note I did not say numerous independent stories — there is only the one quoted in the OP about their client. Letting that client know in no uncertain terms this is unacceptable is perhaps a good idea; the issue is there’s no independent confirmation yet, and hence a boycott is perhaps premature?

  4. VP says

    Maybe the campaign is intended to challenge the stereotype that people like Zoe Quinn are not gamers. To promote the idea that non (teenage males) are also gamers.

  5. consciousness razor says

    “It’s a threat to the ability to do astronomical research from the ground,” he says, noting that SpaceX’s plans to add at least another 7,500 CubeSats into low-Earth orbit will also factor into the problem. “Every one of those moving blips of light in the night sky is something that can interfere with our ability to collect photons from astronomical sources.”

    But Sitnikov insists his display’s orbit is so short it’s negligible for observing. “It’s just six minutes,” he says. “You can do peeing or making your coffee. So it’s a break for you, it’s like we [are] help[ing] them.”

    What an ass. I know how much I love it when my work is interrupted, and telemarketers are my favorite source of “help”….
    But maybe this makes sense somehow, if you have an MBA. Why would you want to do any actual work? Why not piss away your life, or better yet, have no choice but to let someone else piss it away for you? I can totally see where they’re coming from.
    Still, I don’t think astronomers were actually asking for lots of random “coffee breaks” every evening. And if this startup will grow, won’t he eventually need to be honest about the fact that there won’t be just one?

  6. whheydt says

    I don’t think any boycott of mine would have an effect. I don’t drink Pepsi products to start with. (Historical note…when Coke brought out “New Coke” they set up tasting stations in supermarkets and challenged people to tell the difference. I could, and told them that if I wanted to drink Pepsi, I’d buy Pepsi.)

  7. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    Think of the potential! No longer will advertising be limited to such trivialities as commericals, signs, ads on vehicles, brand names on every piece of clothing that turn you into a walking ad, subtle product placement in media etc. The very skies will be filled with…


  8. numerobis says

    I’ll boycott this Russian company, sure.

    Boycotting the food and drink company over the fact that this Russian company claims as a client, yet there’s no press release or other stories than that one? Seems premature.

    (Not that I’ve bought anything from Pepsi anytime recently, I don’t think. It’s hard to keep track who owns who though.)

  9. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    But Sitnikov insists his display’s orbit is so short it’s negligible for observing. “It’s just six minutes,”

    See it’s only six minutes. Researchers, pffft you worry so much. Damn tree huggers don’t know anything about economics, there is so much potential there. The sky is a resource that can be exploited to help drive the economy. The sky is a big place, if this becomes more commonplace maybe we can set aside a window of opportunity for ground based observations or better yet take part in the marketplace, you can buy a window of opportunity for research. Happy?

    Again sarcasm.

  10. robro says

    Should I start drinking Pepsi, so I can then boycott it? I haven’t had a Pepsi or Coke or any of other soda product in years. I probably have some of their bottled water products, but even that is rare.

  11. Artor says

    VP @#4
    Oh, you sweet summer child… Because Pepsi has shown so much social awareness before, amirite?

  12. blf says

    Keep in mind the proposed, albeit perhaps premature, boycott is — or at least should be — against PepisCo, which makes much much more than just that one soda. From Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge:

    […] Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lay’s, Gatorade, Tropicana, 7 Up, Doritos, Brisk, Quaker Foods, Cheetos, Mirinda, Ruffles, Aquafina, Naked, Kevita, Propel, Sobe, H2oh, Sabra, Starbucks (ready to Drink Beverages), Pepsi Max, Tostitos, Mist Twst, Fritos, and Walkers.

  13. says

    But Sitnikov insists his display’s orbit is so short it’s negligible for observing. “It’s just six minutes,” he says. “You can do peeing or making your coffee. So it’s a break for you, it’s like we [are] help[ing] them.”

    A six-minute orbit? This is flatly impossible, a typical low Earth orbit (300km-400km altitude) takes approximately 90 minutes to circumnavigate the Earth. To do it faster, you have to be lower. If you’re further away, it takes longer. I’m no orbital mechanic, but I don’t think it’d even be possible to do a six-minute orbit of Earth even if we had no atmosphere and the satellite was skimming the mountaintops.

  14. sparks says

    There was a short sci-fi story about advertising in the night sky by changing the apparent positions of some of the stars, but I’ll be damned if I can remember who wrote it, I think it was Clarke.

    “Use Silvey’s Soap”.

    Anyone else remember this one?

  15. blf says

    On that “six minute orbit” nonsense: Someone, very possibly including the vandal who is being quoted, has garbled the claim. Apparently, the cubesats, in an orbit of 400–500km, are expected to be visible to the unaided eye “during the twilight of early morning or evening” — hence the (dubious) “six minute” claim.

  16. lumipuna says

    I smell a new form of controversy advertising. A company* announces it will pull some incredibly offensive stunt that raises everyone’s hackles before it actually happens, which is very convenient, because then you don’t actually have to pull the stunt, assuming it’s something super expensive and/or illegal and/or physically implausible.

    *Is Pepsi even in on this, or is it just StartRocket trolling everyone for media visibility? Assuming it’s not hoax all the way down.

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    sparks @ # 18: …Use Silvey’s Soap…

    One night the stars began to rearrange themselves, forming the letters “Use Snively’s* Soap”.
    *[not sure of spelling]

    Soapmaker Snavely went out and suffered fatal apoplexy from the misspelling. Not sure what happened to the lone genius whose work Snavely had appropriated, but one night after the power was turned off to an unoccupied house not far from SnavelyCo, the stars returned to normal. Snavely Soap products did have an exceptional sales period during the interim.

    All from one of Fredric Brown’s 100+ short-short stories, which I don’t have time to look up.

    Personally, I see this as the prelude to the scene in Harry Harrison’s Bill the Galactic Hero in which the Army manipulates the aurora borealis to write emergency-alert messages.

  18. unclefrogy says

    I will wait to see the actual event but it sounds like some kind of a scam or just another ridiculous proposal trying make a buck in tech. without a real chance in hell for it to actually come to be.
    Though consumer corps. are just as likely as not to buy in to it.
    uncle frogy

  19. aziraphale says

    It seems that each pixel will be a solar sail. The reliability of solar sails (especially those built on the cheap and carried by cheap satellites) is quite low. I look forward to the lawsuits when an obscene word gets accidentally displayed.

  20. whheydt says

    Re: Regular Expression @ #15…
    Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon” is obscure?

  21. blf says

    Is this happening before or after Amazon delivers stuff by drone?

    One of the La Poste experiments with drone delivery was in the local area. Ironically, it apparently went very well — albeit I have no idea what the current status is — I say “ironic” because I’m currently having severe problems with getting them to deliver the ordinary snail-mail. Despite le facteur walking right by my house every day, they are returning (all?) my mail as « Destinataire inconnu à d’adressage ». This has me (almost literally) screaming in frustration, and not even the mildly deranged penguin has been able to resolve whatever the problem is.

  22. grumpyoldfart says

    I’m guessing that story is designed to rope in suckers with more money than sense. The owners of StartRocket will use that money to pay their salaries for as many years as they can keep on spinning the story – but the advertising signs will never appear.

    [Remember that copper needle debacle in 1963? The shit that goes on in space is unbelievable.]

  23. pilgham says

    I don’t want a giant sign passing overhead saying “Vote Putin” either. (I suppose it will say “Vote Trump” when passing over the USA though.)

    I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about new from Russia though. Even if it really happens, isn’t India developing a missile to take care of it?

  24. blf says

    Whether or not StartRocket is another Steorn (albeit, unlike Steorn, StartRocket’s claims could be physically possible) or actually serious, it does seem to be a dodgy debacle. Other recent debacles in space include:

    ● Elon Musk’s Mars adventures: Ignoring the implausibility, the stuff he’s launching into space hasn’t been sterilized; should anything land / crash on Mars, he’ll contaminate the planet.
      ○ I also wonder about the recent, failed, Israeli lunar mission…

    ● The recent Indian — and the Chinese a few years ago — anti-satellite weapon tests: Both left a huge swarm of small fragments in orbit, with the Indian test being roughly at ISS altitude. Nasa has complained quite vigorously.
      ○ (To be fair, the same is probably true of the US and Soviet tests decades ago…)
      ○ StartRocket’s proposed cubesats also sound like they could be yet another totally avoidable & unnecessary swarm of dangerous “debis”…

  25. consciousness razor says

    I understood the “six minute” thing to mean the amount of time there would be a line of sight from a stationary point on the ground, whenever it passes over that spot. The entire orbit would of course need to be much longer. (But you can’t see things which have dropped below your horizon … other people around the world will have to put up with it then, and you’re not supposed to care about them.)
    The image/message would be skewed at certain angles, no matter how carefully they keep the satellites aligned (because it can’t be in multiple configurations at the same time). For some, the distortions would be fairly mild, but others would see an indecipherable streak moving across in the sky, sort of like a comet. Not so great for brand recognition.

  26. Ichthyic says

    Wait… wasn’t Pepsi the company that was involved in starting a schism at the old sciblogs? yeah… it was Ed Brayton vs ERV IIRC, was it not?

    Pepsi wanted to both fund and have influence on content?

    am I remembering that right?

  27. Ichthyic says

    Is this happening before or after Amazon delivers stuff by drone?

    I thought Amazon already ran that experiment and abandoned it?

  28. chigau (違う) says

    I thought Amazon already ran that experiment and abandoned it?

    I thought the whole thing was a publicity stunt.
    AKA a load of crap.

  29. bassmanpete says

    sparks @ 18
    I recall a similar story (Clarke or Asimov, not sure which) about projecting a company logo onto the surface of the moon using lasers. The name wasn’t mentioned but, if I remember correctly, the logo was described as being that of a well known soft drinks company.

  30. ajbjasus says

    I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that some of the biggest commercial concerns on the planet produce a product that nobody actually needs. Oh, and the industrial quantities of it that Americans consume.

    Wasn’t there a Crichton novel that had a genetic engineering product that made animals display bioluminescent advertising slogons on their coat\skin ? Thought that was a bit far fetched but this would sit happily in there, or the “Hitch Hikers Guide” !

  31. says

    I look forward to the lawsuits when an obscene word gets accidentally displayed.

    I look forward to the system being hacked by some random teenager. Imagine a giant ASCII penis flying through the sky. Or how about a long list of stolen credit card information?

  32. says

    consciousness razor
    …others would see an indecipherable streak moving across in the sky, sort of like a comet. Not so great for brand recognition.
    Sounds like a good opportunity for guerilla capitalism! A simple change of your product name, and voila! Free Advertising for Indecipherable Streak™ Coffee! The inevitable lawsuits would be even more free publicity for your company.