Picture the Manhattan skyline filled with Nike swooshes. Or the golden arches of McDonald's gently drifting over Los Angeles. A special-effects entrepreneur from...
LEXINGTON, Ala. —
Picture the Manhattan skyline filled with Nike swooshes. Or the golden arches of McDonald’s gently drifting over Los Angeles.
A special-effects entrepreneur from Alabama has come up with a way to fill the sky with foamy clouds as big as 4 feet across and shaped like corporate logos — Flogos, as he calls them. Francisco Guerra, who’s also a former magician, developed a machine that produces tiny bubbles filled with air and a little helium, forms the foam into shapes and pumps them into the sky.
Most Read Business Stories
- The penthouse atop Smith Tower is on the rental market for the first time
- Downtowns will be back, but Seattle has choices to make
- Boutique cruise line Windstar will move its Seattle headquarters to Miami
- Zillow’s price estimates are now cash offers in homebuying push
- FCC approves $50 monthly high-speed internet subsidy for low-income households
The Walt Disney Co. will use one of the machines next month to send clouds shaped like Mickey Mouse heads into the air at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., Guerra said.
“It’s a shock factor when you look up and there’s a logo over your head,” said Guerra, whose company, Snowmasters, makes machines that churn out fake snow and foam for Hollywood movies and special events.
He developed Flogos at his small factory in northern Alabama — a perfect place for research and development, he said, partly because there aren’t many people around to ask questions about the foam shapes that float above the building on test days.
A Flogo machine works a little like a Play-Doh Fun Factory, the $5 toy kids use to squeeze colorful putty into stars, circles and other shapes.
A boxlike contraption produces a specially formulated white foam in a big round tub and forces it upward through a stencil. Once the foam is several inches thick, a metal cutter slices it and a faux cloud floats into the sky.
“You want some wind because you want them to travel,” Guerra said. “If there’s no wind they just spiral upward slowly. We’ve got a ghost [stencil], and on a calm day it looks like everyone is going to heaven.”
The foam is environmentally safe because it’s mostly water, air and a soapy agent that creates bubbles, Guerra says. Flogos pop just like bubbles and disappear when they hit a tree or building, sometimes leaving a residue that blows away.
A single Flogo can travel as far as 30 miles and as high as 20,000 feet, Guerra says, and a machine can produce one every 15 seconds.
Imagine a line of drifting Flogos shaped like the Honda logo leading to a car dealership and you get the idea.
A professor who specializes in environmental issues and public policy said Flogos didn’t appear to pose a pollution hazard if they’re really just specially formulated soap and water. “It sounds like it’s harmless, but there’s a lot of stuff that we thought was harmless that turned out not to be,” said Jerry Emison, a professor of political science and public administration and Mississippi State University.
The company has lined up international distributors in Australia, Germany, Mexico and Singapore. A machine rents for about $3,500 a day, Guerra said.
Matt Leible of New York-based Generation Outdoor, an ad agency specializing in outdoor advertising, said companies can spend $5,000 a day for a big banner with graphics towed by an airplane, and skywriting can cost $4,500.
One expert said the idea sounds catchy, but wonders how Flogos will fare against a backdrop of controlled airspace, environmental sensitivity and concerns over legal liability in case something goes wrong, like a pilot being distracted by a swarm of floating tomahawks above an Atlanta Braves game.
“I think people will look at them. The question is what happens after people look at them,” said Leonard Lodish, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Only a few people have seen Flogos so far, including a crowd at the local ballpark one day when the company was testing. There was no way to ignore the test clouds as they floated lazily overhead, said Augie Hendershot, police chief in Lexington. “Everybody thought it was neat,” he said.