Iranians Fall for Pepsi Logo on the Moon Rumor

France 24 News recounts how thousands of Iranians fell victim to a hoax, spread on website and social networks, which suggested the Pepsi Company was going to project its logo on the surface of the moon, using lasers or some other form of technology.


Thousands of Iranians took to the rooftops, some with binoculars and telescopes, searching for the Pepsi logo in vain one night in June, 2012. Some Iranians, disbelieving the rumor, had fun with it, photo shopping images of the moon, some with the Pepsi logo, some with a computer error message on the lunar surface. Many drank cola as a form of mocking.

The idea of using space, including celestial objects such as the moon, as advertising has been a subject of science fiction and of political debate for decades. Robert Heinlein's story, "The Man Who Sold the Moon," depicted an entrepreneur who financed a private expedition to the moon by proposing to put advertising on the lunar surface and then accepted money not to do so. One of the stories in the Arthur C. Clarke series, "Venture to the Moon," depicted the "biggest advertising coup in history" using a sodium cloud that could be seen from Earth.

A proposal to erect a mile long billboard in space during the early 1990s, according to the Associated Press, was met with opposition from astronomers and environmentalists. The proposal eventually led to legislation being proposed to ban such advertising. Since 2005, the FAA has been in charge of regulating such advertising. According to the Urthecast blog, the United States remains the only country that bans what it terms "obtrusive" advertising in space, defined as something that could be seen without the aid of a telescope. Corporate sponsorships of space missions, including logos on spacecraft and astronauts' space suits, are still permitted.

Thus the people in Iran who thought that Pepsi was going to use the moon as a billboard were sadly deceived. Pepsi could not have legally done what the Iranians thought the company was going to do. That does not mean that a foreign company could not try to use the moon as a giant billboard. The only two things standing in the way are financing and, perhaps, political opposition.