In recent months, the idea of drone-vertising has been tossed around the interwebs with little consideration as to whether it’s actually a viable advertising tool.
To the average Joe, drones are synonymous with carrying out military air stirkes. Or being a pest to the authorities as they film bushfires from the air. Or being tested as a potential delivery service for Amazon. OK, that last one is a little weird; I’d love to see a little flying apparatus whisk the entire boxed set of the complete Oxford English Dictionary to my front door.
But are these unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV) really leading the way in avant-garde advertising?
Branding By Air is an international aerial display and stunt advertising company and have drone-vertising on their radar. Simon Powell, the company’s Australian GM, says: “We’ve certainly kept our eye on it. Drones are fantastic. Very impressive little machines.”
Still, he’s not fully sold.
“The problem so far is that the capabilities of drones aren’t quite there to make a huge impact. With aerial advertising you want to be reaching people en mass. Drones don’t have the power-to-weight ratio to be able to tow a banner or carry anything of real size,” explains Powell.
Examples of drone-vertising certainly exist, though they are few and far between and are limited in their audience reach. This recent ad campaign by Wokker noodles in Russia employed drones to promote its range of rice and noodle dishes to Moscow office workers.
Back in April, 19-year-old Gauravjit Singh launched DroneCast in Philadelphia, to spread advertising messages in the form of six feet long banners. The agency charges $US100 a day to use one of DroneCast’s drones to advertise over busy intersections.
Powell is discerning about the concept; he insists the UAV must deliver a product or display a banner in order to constitute drone-vertising. This is in contrast to the drone having a camera mounted on it and then used as a tool to procure unique angles for photographs and film. “You can do some localised experiential marketing stuff. You might be able to reach some people on the beach, but I believe the benefit of drone use is more for TVC campaigns,” says Powell.
Laughlin Rigby, head of marketing for tourism marketing company Sunshine Coast Destination, used drones in his latest tourism campaign. “I truly believe using drones to film footage for ad campaigns is going to be a game changer in the industry,” he says.
Rigby says: “The great thing about drone cameras as opposed to shooting from a helicopter is, you can get up close and personal. You can get the drone closer to trees and beaches and it’s far more cost-effective and versatile.”
This video is a behind-the-scenes look at the use of drones for TVC purposes. “When people see what drone camera technology can achieve, marketers will be talking to their agencies to explore this,” says Rigby.
Justin McMillan, a freelance film director explains how using drones for filming is growing legs because it allows for a high production value in light of shrinking budgets. “We’ve tried to accommodate that and keep production value in mind. Drones are considerably cheaper than a helicopter, but in the same breath – drones will never replace a helicopter. They’re simply not as fast, and won’t stay in the air as long. They’re an intimate aerial tool; great for hugging tress and getting the audience right in there,” McMillan explains.
“We’ve done everything from car commercials, to breakfast cereal commercials to tourism commercials. Obviously outdoor works well, but you just need to consider creative shots and have a decent pilot to pull off that shot,” says McMillan,
Drone technology is still in its infancy and drone-vertising is unrefined in Australia and wrapped up in a lot of red tape. “You do need to be fully CASA certified and you need to have a UAV license,” explains McMillan.
“From the drone-vertising point of view, what’s on the horizon is having drones that swarm and form shapes, having them fly grids wirelessly connected to pixels to make basic video screens,” suggests Powell.
“We’ve asked to do a few activations, like dropping toys from a drone for example, but councils don’t understand it – so they’re quite against it,” says Powell. He also adds that drones too easily impede on people’s personal space. “Drones buzzing around regularly? I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon. I believe they’d be legislated against.” And there’s the issue of safety, “you can block the signal from the controller so they just fall out of the sky,” explains Powell.
While the concept of drone-vertising is certainly novel, its viability as an advertising tool and its ability to reach a large audience hasn’t been checked out. In terms of legislation, approval and licensing, Australian authorities are lukewarm at best.