Check Out This New Use for Drones: Live Advertising with Drone Light Shows
BY Zacc Dukowitz26 April 2023
Drone light shows aren’t a new concept any more, but lately they have been used in a new way—to promote brands.
The idea of using drone light shows as flying advertisements has been a hot one over the last few years, with big names like Lucky Charms and the NBA signing on.
You’ll find a few different terms used to describe these flying ads. Drone advertising is one, and another we’ve heard, which is more of a mouthful, is “branded aerial art displays.”
The latter comes from Pixis Drones, the event company behind the NBA drone light show mentioned above. Pixis has done some of the most prominent drone advertising shows that have been put on over the last few years, though it’s certainly not the only company in the game.
These light shows provide a unique way for a company to impress the public, and associate its brand with an event that may live on beyond the immediate moment of the show.
We have an opportunity to…tell a story in a medium that has not been yet defined. There’s a huge ceiling for this, and it can only go higher and brighter.
– Brad Nierenberg, Founder of Pixis Drones
How Drone Advertising Helps Companies Grow Their Brands
While drone advertising shows are an attraction that helps companies wow their audience and make a positive connection with their brands, they have a second, even bigger life online.
This online reach is probably more valuable to companies than the impact of the live show itself.
To help its clients understand the impact of the money they spend with Pixis Drones, the company provides stats like online impressions by platform, in-person impressions (to the best of its ability), and media coverage. As you’d expect, online reach is always much bigger than in person.
To make this concrete, clips from the drone light show Paris Hilton paid Pixis Drone to put on for the launch of her company 11:11 Media have been seen over three million times on Instagram—far more than the number of people who saw it in person.
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If three million views on Instagram sounds like a lot, a show Candy Crush had Pixis Drones do last year to celebrate its 10th anniversary blew that number out of the water.
That drone light show racked up a whopping 1.8 billion impressions online, as well as over 300 media placements.
The Candy Crush show took place in New York City, which has a permanent, total ban on drones.
To get around the ban, Pixis had its drones take off from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, performing the show so that it would be visible from New York’s Battery Park Esplanade (although the drones were flying in New Jersey air space). Special permission had to be obtained from the state of New Jersey to put on the show, as well as a waiver from the FAA.
But the line between drone advertising and drone light show can be murky.
Singapore-based SKYMAGIC has been putting on some incredible drone light shows recently, some of which could definitely be seen as advertising, even though they haven’t been explicitly called ads.
Take this show SKYMAGIC put on for Pikachu Weekend in the sky over the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore:
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That show was definitely a kind of ad for Pokémon, although it was billed as just another part of the Weekend.
On the other hand, the show SKYMAGIC put on at Coachella a few weeks ago for Korean girl group BLACKPINK and Icelandic musician Björk could also be called a kind of ad, since it was promoting the two acts and helping create viral images that will be associated with them online.
But, of course, it was also just a cool light show that was done to amplify the experience of being at Coachella. Whatever you want to call them, they sure are fun to watch.
Thank you for having us, Coachella ✌️.
🎥 REPOST: Coachella
🎶 BLACKPINK – BOOMBAYAH
Drone show created by SKYMAGIC
Soundtrack by @ontheslyprod
#SKYMAGIC #DroneLightShow #Coachella2023 pic.twitter.com/wzFTuoTrDJ
— SKYMAGIC Drone Shows (@Skymagicdrones) April 17, 2023
How Much Does a Drone Light Show Cost?
There are different price points out there depending on who you ask, but wherever you get your numbers, drone advertising shows are not cheap.
Pixis Drones has shared that it charges between $300 and $500 per drone for a drone light show.
Credit: Pixis Drones
Given that most of its shows use at least 250 drones, this means that your base cost would be between $75,000 and $125,000, with the amount going up from there as more drones get added. Also, keep in mind that there will likely be additional costs beyond the drones themselves, which could include renting a site, permitting fees, or paying someone to shoot photos and videos of the show for marketing materials.
On average, Pixis says it takes about 45 days to plan and execute one of its drone light shows.
When planning a drone light show, Pixis also takes care of choosing the music and thinking about the location of the audience. If the light show is seen from the wrong angle, it could look like nothing—if the angle is too sharp—or it could look backward, if people are on the wrong side of the show. (Think about people in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park watching the show meant for those in New York City—it was probably still a great show, though technically it would be backward.)
In addition to planning the logistics of the show, companies like Pixis have to consider all the regulatory requirements for flying drones, including airspace research and the possible need for airspace authorizations and other state and local permits, depending on where the show takes place.
Drone advertising is still in its infancy. But as we’ve covered here, it’s starting to get noticed by more and more major companies, and looks like it’s here to stay.