Is There Advertising in Outer Space?

In 2008, a commercial for Doritos was beamed to a "habitable zone" in the Ursa Major constellation.
In 2008, a commercial for Doritos was beamed to a "habitable zone" in the Ursa Major constellation.

As you read this, there might just be an alien living somewhere in the Ursa Major constellation who is craving Doritos. If that's the case, it's because of a 2008 effort by the EISCAT (European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association) space center to transmit the first commercial into outer space.

From its facility in the Norwegian region of Svalbard, EISCAT employed an array of radars to send the 30-second advertisement for tortilla chips into a habitable zone of the constellation, which is located some 42 light-years from Earth. Usually, the radar systems are used to study interactions between the Sun and the Earth in the upper atmosphere.

"We’re sending it as an MPEG file coded into 1s and 0s," said EISCAT Director Tony van Eyken. "It’s going to look pretty random." Van Eyken said the hope is that repeating the advertisement at regular intervals will lead extraterrestrial life to realize it is coming from an intelligent source.

Even if the effort isn't really likely to grab the attention of any aliens, the funding from Doritos might prompt other businesses to take interest. "Some years in the future, the money that comes from this kind of commercial service could be used to fund pure research," van Eyken said.

The changing face of advertising:

  • Movie previews are known as "trailers" because they used to be shown after the feature film; it wasn't until the 1930s that previews were shown before the feature.

  • Many of the people shown in weight loss commercials were actually in good shape when first filmed, but then gained weight to become the "before" person.

  • The first television commercial was a 10-second ad for Bulova watches that appeared before a baseball game on July 1, 1941. The spot cost Bulova $9 USD.

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    • In 2008, a commercial for Doritos was beamed to a "habitable zone" in the Ursa Major constellation.
      In 2008, a commercial for Doritos was beamed to a "habitable zone" in the Ursa Major constellation.