Moonvertising: Brilliant Idea or Gullible Consumers?

Man, we’re gullible. I don’t mean you, of course. I mean the collective “we”, as in the “we” who are still forwarding email messages that Bill Gates is running an experiment to give away cash. While it hasn’t happened yet, I expect my InBox to begin filling with messages decrying the use of the moon as advertising space and attempting to organize a boycott of Rolling Rock beer.

By now you’ve likely seen one of the billboards or TV spots instructing you to gaze thoughtfully at the next full moon (March 21) to see a gigantic Rolling Rock icon emblazoned there. (You can stay inside watching reruns of “I Love Lucy”… It’s not going to happen. First, we simply haven’t harnessed the power necessary to fire the laser that far that cleanly to make it work. Next, the FAA isn’t going to allow it. Finally, imagined how irritated people would be when the moon becomes a billboard.)

[Disclaimer: Those crafty Russians may have figured out a way to build this laser and would likely sell their grandmother’s derriere for advertising space, so that’s about the only conceivable possibility that this might come to pass. But I’d put the odds at about twice as unlikely as winning the Powerball.]

What Rolling Rock is hoping to gain is buzz. And that makes me feel a little dirty for even writing about it, as every mention of the campaign will be scraped, wrapped up, tied with a bow and called a success. Please don’t misunderstand me: this might get noticed, it might generate buzz, and you (they) might call it a success. But I will be astonished if sales of Rolling Rock go up an appreciable degree outside of the normal spike they might see after a large, expensive, national advertising campaign.

[Disclaimer Two: You know, Hugo Chavez has a lot of money. I could see him trying to do this just to thumb his nose at our pesky FAA regulations. “Oil for lasers” or something like that.]

We might be dumb enough to look up at the moon next week, whether out of idle curiosity or misguided intentions, but I just don’t see that translating into “Gosh, looks like the laser failed. I think I’ll head to the liquor store and grab a six pack of Rolling Rock.”

Every new author of a best-seller can demonstrate that “buzz” is good. Eliot Spitzer can demonstrate that buzz can be very, very bad. Be careful that you’re cultivating the right kind with the right strategy, or you might end up trying to shoot the moon… and miss.