When you think of advertising, do you look to the sky? From blimps and skywriting, to tow banners and more, aerial advertising is part of the history of aviation.
STEM in 30
Advertising is a big business. But does it make sense to spend the money on flying a banner over a crowded beach or writing something in the sky? What do you really know about aerial advertisement? How big does something need to be to see it from the ground and how do you write in the sky? We'll explore those topics and more in this episode of STEM in 30.
You may already be familiar with a banner pulled by an airplane, advertising a beachside restaurant. But what are the other ways aircraft are used to deliver messages in the sky? Explore this topic with us at this month's Soar Together at Air and Space Family Day!
Skywriting is something you might witness at the beach, or a sporting event, or an outdoor concert. A popular form of aerial advertising and even the occasional marriage proposal, skywritten messages can have a BIG impact (and with letters approximately 1500 feet tall… we mean that quite literally). But maybe you didn’t know that it originated with the military and dates way back to the early days of aviation the early 1900s. This episode will be your exhaustive look into everything you’d want to know about skywriting – how it works, who does it, the most popular examples, and even its code of conduct.
From 1931 to 1953, Andy Stinis performed skywriting in this airplane for Pepsi-Cola. During those years, skywriting with smoke was a premier form of advertising, and Pepsi-Cola used it more than any other company. Pepsi-Cola acquired the airplane in 1973 and used it for air show and advertising duty until retiring it in 2000. Peggy Davies and Suzanne Oliver, the world's only active female skywriters since 1977, performed in it.
By the time she was 18, Suzanne Asbury-Oliver had her powered-aircraft instrument rating, commercial certificate, flight instructor, and instrument-flight instructor certificates, as well as a multiengine rating. When she saw an advertisement put out by Pepsi-Cola for a skywriter, Asbury-Oliver first thought it would be impossible to get the job. But she realized there probably wasn’t anyone more qualified, so she inquired about the position and was promptly put in a plane with the current Pepsi skywriter. Asbury-Oliver was almost instantly successful and worked with pilot Jack Strayer for a year before he retired and she became head skywriter.
The sight of the Goodyear Blimp overhead is often a sign of a major event occurring below. This control car saw duty over the 1977, 1980, 1983, and 1985 Super Bowls; the 1981 and 1984 World Series; Rose Bowl games and parades; and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It starred in the Hollywood thriller Black Sunday (1977) and made appearances in several other films. However, it's history starts much earlier.
Early Aerial Advertising
In early 1930, Roscoe Turner received a major sponsorship from the Gilmore Oil Company, which was well known for its Red Lion gasoline brand. He sought a colorful way to promote the company’s products—and the concept of Gilmore the Flying Lion was born. Turner purchased the male lion cub and named him Gilmore. Turner and Gilmore began flying together in April 1930.
The first crossing of the United States by airplane was achieved by Calbraith Perry Rodgers in 1911 in his Wright EX biplane, named the Vin Fiz. In 1910, famed publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst announced his offer of a $50,000-prize for a U.S. transcontinental flight in thirty days or less, and Rodgers rose to the challenge. Rodgers' Wright EX biplane was named the Vin Fiz after his sponsor's grape soda product.