Companies adopting satellite-imaging technology to `astro-tise’

Companies adopting satellite-imaging technology to `astro-tise’


USA, 22 January 2007 – As part of its rebranding effort, KFC Corp. recently worked with an event-marketing company to have its 87,500-square-foot Colonel photographed from space by GeoEye’s Ikonos satellite as it passed over the site.

GeoEye spokesman Mark Brender calls “astro-tising” projects like KFC’s “a creative way to use space-based technology.” GeoEye charged KFC about $2,000 for the job, Brender said. “We will look for the right opportunities and certainly be responsive to any company that calls and wants satellite imagery over their facilities or over their brand or their trademark, as long as we can see it from space,” he said.

KFC used one-foot-square tiles painted red, white, eggshell, beige and black to construct the new company logo, putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle near Area 51, the remote Air Force test center rumored to be a UFO rendezvous.

“It was a logistical challenge,” said KFC spokesman Rick Maynard. During the six days of on-site construction, workers covered up the tiles. The company worried that cloudy weather might obscure the image once it was time to be photographed, but the weather cooperated.

The new KFC image was unveiled in November as the company announced a campaign to contemporize its restaurants. “KFC and [parent company] Yum Brands have kind of a long, proud history with space-related promotions,” such as Pizza Hut’s logo on the side of a Russian rocket and Long John Silver’s offer of free giant shrimp if NASA found evidence of an ocean on Mars, Maynard said. “People love outer space.”

A British Airways commercial zooms into satellite images of cities the airline flies to. It also teamed with Google Earth so that travelers can research their trips online by virtually “flying” to their destinations. The “Sopranos” Web site features a Google Map with satellite imagery that allows viewers to zoom into sites like Shea Stadium and the banks of the East River, where incidents in the TV show purportedly took place. Satellite imagery also has been used in the films “Mission: Impossible III,” “I, Robot,” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

Companies that place advertisements on roofs around airports are considering expanding their territory “in the hopes that [their ads] might appear on a Google Earth-type site,” said DigitalGlobe spokesman Chuck Herring. The risk of such a move is that it may be months or years before images on the site are updated.

Advertising is not one of DigitalGlobe’s core business lines, Herring said. But because the awareness of satellite imagery has gone up drastically over the last few years, “you’re starting to see people react to it,” he said.

As satellite imagery goes mainstream with applications such as Google Earth, companies like GeoEye and DigitalGlobe hope it becomes a more commonplace tool.