Advertisements in the sky...

So, sure, I work in the noncommercial media business and am a die-hard media reform activist so I'm a little more sensitive to these issues, but... this one made me mad enough to post. This is now day two that our community has been forced to see a giant ad being towed by a small plane. It's all part of a media campaign for the insurance company Geico (who will soon have it's very own TV show). It makes me sick that this thing is flying back and forth over the Town.

On one level, it's an environmental issue; a plane wasting fuel flying here and there for no other purpose than branding an image into our collective brains. On another level, that constant noise is really annoying. The plane flies very slowly and low to the ground, so it's very audible. On anther level, it's estimated that the average American is exposed to 2,500 ads a day. That's a lot of advertisements!

It's wonderful that Chapel Hill has a ban on billboards, but I wish we could ban mobile advertising. The Chapel Hill Town Council received a petition to control mobile billboards but it looks like it's a state issue that our community has no control over.

I wonder if we can file a petition for a noise complaint if these darn planes keep coming... I mean really... we own the air don't we!?



I don't believe we DO own the skies. Legally, anywho. Otherwise, one could restrict the airspace at one's discretion. I find the ads and planes irritating as well...though not as terrifying as the annual fly-over by the Bomber Jet Planes riding shotgun in the sky.( Which never seem to turn into butterflies...)

Well- we saw it and couldn't read it at all. Thought it was two flags. From my perspective, they're wasting their money.

I do believe we own the air...and I'd like to use that philosophy to reinstate the fairness doctrine. On this issue, however, I am with Linda, I could figure out what the banner said.

I saw it yesterday. A low and very slow monoplane with one
large wing pulled a banner with the caveman image and the
word GEICO. What amazed me was how slow that plane could
fly without stalling. It had to be powerful, i.e., noisy to overcome the drag from that large banner.
I'd much rather see the Goodyear blimp -- it's quiet.
Wonder what it costs to advertise that way.

I have to say that we do own the air. No one person, corporation or government may "own" the air around us. When you purchase a house, you don't get the sky above it, right? If you're a corporation with a factory pumping pollution which is harming the community, you don't get to argue that you own that airspace and can do what you please, right? There are entities that regulate aspects of the air, but it cannot be "owned" to the best of my understanding.
For instance, the FCC regulates spectrum in the air. The FAA regulates physical objects for a certain portion of the air. As far as I understand, in terms of physical objects in the air, the municipality manages the air up to a certain hight. Then the FAA, and then, umm...hard to say.
One thing that I always try to make people understand, when it comes to the airwaves and spectrum, is that we have a right to some of that space. We have the right to lease airspace for community radio or emergency management communication. We have the right to set up a Wifi network for our neighborhood.
But in this country, since the telecommunications act of 1934, you have to have a great deal of money to lease spectrum, even though the spectrum itself already belongs to us. We live in a regulatory environment where media/spectrum/airspace is treated as a commercial good, and we as citizens are only treated as consumers. We ought to have a slice of spectrum where we can be free of this model and use the media/spectrum/airspace in a manner which is best fit for our community.
Sorry for the rant...

I saw the ad yesterday and thought it was a picture of Che Guervara (sp!)--really need to start wearing my glasses more often.

. I'm actually happy to learn that no one owns the sky. At least one free pleasure left in this world...... If someone actually did own the sky, would the birds have to pay a tax to fly there? Would planes be expected to pay tolls?

I meant couldn't...darn multi-tasking.

Ok, do I have to say it? You found it intrusive and annoying to have that plane meandering around over the town for two days? You mean low-flying planes can be a problem and something ought to be done about that?

Well, if I'm with you on that one, I'm also certainly with you on being over-advertised at/to. But do we own the air? Who's "we" and what could "ownership" get us? I can tell you right now, the owner and pilot of that plane believe the air is theirs.

But there's a slight problem with comparing air waves for communication with air space for aviation, although I credit the effort to recognize that we can't expect things to work well in either realm if there aren't some organizing principles.

The FCC can (supposedly, although less so every year) control and regulate the airwaves because they are considered to be a limited commodity. At one time, anyone could broadcast at any frequency and the result was, as you'd expect, broadcast chaos. So now frequencies -- there are a finite number of them at present -- are licensed or even "sold" for the sake of order as well as to preserve access to them as a public utility because communication is deemed to be a public good. (Just don't get me started on the FCC great giveaway of frequencies....)

The FAA regulates certain aspects of air space for some similar reasons -- altitude assignments, airport traffic patterns, no-fly zones, etc. But air is more than a spectrum of frequencies -- and the example of smoke floating well beyond a corporate stack is a good one. Moreover, we can occupy "air" many different ways: auditorily, visually, spacially, olefactorily (a word?), respiratorially (ditto?), etc. etc.

In addition, the physical dangers we think of in connection with air traffic is more analogous to those associated with land or sea traffic than with broadcast wavelengths -- although, yes, people damage their eardrums, and I'm aware of concerns about living near ultra-(low? high?) frequency wires, etc. Regulation, or any form of "ownership," has to acknowledge that.

There should be a permitting process and a hefty fee for using our skies to fly ads around in.

I have to buy a "privilege" license to work in town?!? but anybody can just fly banners around overhead?

Those mobile ads need to treated the same way - permits & hefty fees. What an insult to fuel conservation and general aesthetics.

Did somebody say the State Leg won't allow such stuff? We should be challenging the "no home rule" stuff every chance we get. It's insulting to democratic aspirations.

I too thought it was a picture of che guevara. I thought it was some kind of irony or something. I couldn't see that it was a geico ad, I Only saw the image.

I also thought it was Che. I didn't recognize it as the Caveman at first.

The same airborne campaign is under way in Raleigh, by the way.

Over Carrboro, it was Che.
Over Chapel Hill, it was the Geico caveman.

I thought it was the big eyed sad girl from the Les Mis posters.

From my recollection of 1L property law, generally the law says that you own the immediate reaches of the air above your land. Naturally there is a lot more to it all than that, but this rule is the basic reason that a hot air balloon floating through your yard at 20 feet of the ground would probably be trespassing, whereas a plane flying hundreds or thousands of feet overhead is not.

One classic case related to a man who shot a gun across someone else's land. The bullet, the gun and the shooter never touched the complainant's land, but the shot was considered a trespass nonetheless because it passed low across the complainant's airspace.

The Geico advertisement did look like Che Guava (yes, I know it's Guevara but I don't care much for the man) I'm glad to know it was an ad rather than a picture of Guava.

The American government regulates the skies, there is no ownership but the airspace is all mandated by the FAA.

If you don't like the advertisement, then don't look at it. Why would you be looking at the sky and burn your retinas off anyway?

I think that if people who really have a problem with the ad flying over Chapelboro, then they should call the corporate offices at GEICO and advise them that they need to find another way to advertise.

The idea of a town regulating airspace makes me queasy, knowing that more of my taxes would have to be pumped into another bureaucratic do-nothing agency.

For those of you who really want to get rid of this "flying nuisance", I'm sure that the former Soviet Union would be happy to sell you a MiG 23 or a surface to air RPG. Just thinking outside the box people.

I saw the plane. I assumed it was someone practicing towing a banner for a time when they were going to do it for real, such as over Kenan Stadium for a football game. I'm surprised it's a GEICO campaign since GEICO is usually so clever and effective in their ads and this campaign seems so flat, especially since people familiar with the mindset of the CH/C area would know it wouldn't go over well. GEICO didn't do its homework.

I don't know the law but from a common sense standpoint I think such ads should be banned with the exception of special occasions such as UNC football games. I'm not against business and advertising but that doesn't mean vendors should be able to do anything anytime anywhere.

I didn't know that CH has a billboard ban but I'm glad to hear it. You go some places and it's just hideous with these things all over the place, no to mention it serves as a distraction to people that should be concentrating on driving instead of reading ads.

"There should be a permitting process and a hefty fee for using our skies to fly ads around in.
I have to buy a “privilege” license to work in town?!? but anybody can just fly banners around overhead?"

Yes, let's just add more regulations and fees to those who are trying to do business, rather than ever getting rid of any. Carrboro doesn't need that tax base, after all :(

Has it occurred to y'all that you are giving this insurance company invaluable attention through earned media by repeating their name and their stunt over and over?

First, Gieco is wrong by distracting drivers trying to sell auto insurance. I wonder how many collisions happened due to this thing ( I could see it from South Square in Durham, over Chapel Hill ). What a crooked way to drum up business.

Second, in an area where the clear majority of residents are trying to reduce pollution and carbon footprint, the huge amount of drag on the plane that was going to no specified destination was and will always be offensive in noise, air, upper atmosphere pollution.

But what's the solution? Instead of being angered, be active.
Positive attitudes create positive solutions.

I'll be interested what WE can do without running to the government and putting Gieco on the spot. Sometimes a video of such an egregious act profiled on ( and anything on youtube is automatically picked up by the local media) puts stupidity on Main Street.

I sent a message to Geico to complain about this intrusion in our skies and asked them to stop. I do not know if it is a national ad campaign or one being run by a local agent or agency. If I hear anything back I will let you know.

I have spoken to the Geico group in Raleigh and voiced my own personal concerns about this plane flying and advertising. The gentleman said that I was the first person he knew of that had called to complain. He was going to let the "corporate" office in Washington know and couldn't promise that it would stop immediately because the routes are probably already paid for. He said that they were flying the planes for the first time in Chapel Hill and it coincided with home football games. I said no, they are flying all during the week, etc. He said it was a part of their national marketing office and was to occur during football season and they're doing it in Cary, etc. I asked him if Cary had a football team. He couldn't believe that I would care about a plane in the sky advertising; it's "just a plane". I told him in Chapel Hill, we love our environment untainted by obtrusive advertising and don't have advertising bus-wraps for instance. Can't I just look up in the sky without being bombarded with some ad? I'd like to see the clouds and the birds. I told him a ton of people are complaining and that itself can't be good for Geico business which is couterproductive to what they're trying to do. I don't know how things travel down the corporate pipeline, but I bet nothing happens.

For anyone willing to place a (800) call:
Mr. Tony Nicely
One GEICO Plaza
Washington, DC 20076
800 861-8380

Where to send complaints:
Contact GEICO
Washington, DC 20076
800 861-8380

I can't make the banner out either, but now that I know it's for GEICO, it's even more offensive in my opinion.

So the number above will get you nowhere. I got this from, which is a great resource by the way, and was connected directly with the marketing department where I left a message.
Warm regards,
Chad Johnston


GEICO is engaged in the multiple line property and casualty insurance business. GEICO writes preferred-risk private passenger automobile insurance for government employees, military personnel and homeowners.

One GEICO Plaza
Washington, DC 20076
USA - Map
+1-301-986-3000 (Phone)

Joe, your comment about the blimp is actually not quite true -- they move around with basically a plane beneath them. We lived in Atlanta in '91-93 when the Braves were in the World Series. Actually lived in the flight path between Fulton Co stadium and Charlie Brown airport where the blimps would base while visiting. We were awoken a couple of nights by this loud "plane" because we would be silly enough to go to bed after the game and forget that the blimp leaves even later back to base.

I would prefer the little lizard instead of the cavemen. They creep me out.

You know, the issue of who owns the air is not really relevant, nor is good ol' Che. What matters is that this particular air traffic is a real bother to us [to some of us for sure] and we should express our concern about it. For instance, someone should simply send on this blog address to the Geico fellow and let him/her judge what's up. I for one am no longer to ever consider Geico as an insurer given this disturbance, and even more, if it does continue this week, I am going to start suggesting to my friends and neighbors that they also never consider Geico. And who might take on sending this blog address to the FAA or whoever it is that regulates this activity?

I'm with Chad and others who oppose the intrusiveness of the flying banners. They are, among other things, a way around local sign ordinances that properly regulate outdoor advertising. Occasional festive use is one thing. Routine product advertising is something else and should not be allowed.

I recently learned of another kind of mobile advertising and how it is growing: billboards on trucks. One company, Do It Outdoors, that is promoting the use of these moving signs, including "saturation strategies" for events and advertising campaigns, tried to make the case that it is "green". They offered funds in return for the use of the logo to a national environmental federation (Earth Share) on whose board I sit. We passed, but I'm told that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) agreed. Scenic America, an organization which focuses on controlling billboards, says these trucks will soon be giant video screens -- imagine that distraction as you drive.

I've seen an occasional truck locally that was nothing but a billboard. If the ad guys get their way, they will be cruisin' all over.

I'm a GEICO customer and will call to complain. They have great ads but this is over the line. And you folks comparing Che Guevera to a Caveman better watch yourselves... :)

So I got a call back from the marketing department of said company. She let me know that the campaign was a short one and not to worry. Apparently, they're only going to fly the plane for 6 weeks of every semester and during special events as part of a larger national campaign. A year from now, they will review the campaign and may or may not renew their contract with the flying ad company.
So, looks like they're here to least for the year to come...

I don't know if you remember, but a few years ago a plane flew over downtown Raleigh with a banner depicting an aborted fetus. I had a great afternoon (and several late nights) explaining that image to my kids.

I think there needs to be some kind of oversight,

But, until there is, let's fly giant IMPEACH banners 24/7.

Apparently, it's cheap.


The next home football game is this Saturday, October 13 against the
University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Just prior to the 3:30 p.m.
kickoff, US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Jets will perform a flyover of
Kenan Stadium. The jet squadron is from Oceana, Virginia and its
mission is to train F/A-18 pilots to fly operationally overseas.

The jets will be flying low and be quite loud, so we wanted to give you
advance warning of Saturday's event. There will not be any practice
runs prior to the actual fly-over on Saturday.

The planes may be loud, they may be annoying and they may seem like a huge waste of money, but GEICO is getting the last laugh here.
The noise made you look up and the annoyance made you think about GEICO a lot longer than you thought about any Allstate commercial. Their money was not wasted if people are going to sit and post 30+ comments about their company.
GEICO does a great job with advertising. They are not interested in attracting all you car-insurance connoisseurs. It's about name recognition. GEICO will always pop into the heads of first time car-insurance buyers, and their money holds just as much value as anyone else's.
I suggest buying some cotton to block out the noise, because this is one advertising campaign that seems to be working.

This has been going on in Denton, TX as well. I have all the same complaints put forth in this post. I e-mailed a complaint a couple weeks ago and then today they were out again. After some digging I found a name & number:

Adrienne (Adrian?) Pond

She said that they don't have to have permission of the town or university to fly over our airspace, anyone can do it. She also assured me the campaign would end this week and that some people have had positive reactions to the campaign. If you would like to let her know your reaction, give her a call.


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