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Friday, September 11, 2009

Zeppelin Hovering Over San Francisco Wants Your Spit

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Our future looms overhead ...
  • Our future looms overhead ...
San Franciscans lucky enough to be enjoying our lunch outside today were interrupted by the less-than-appetizing sight of a gargantuan pair of chromosomes looming over our heads. This zeppelin, which belongs to Airship Ventures, currently features advertising from the Mountain View-based direct-to-consumer personal genetics company, 23andMe, which -- for a mere $99 and a couple ounces of spit -- promises to tell you who you're related to and what genetic diseases you may develop (or already have).

For a company that has been known to push the advertising envelope (trendy spit parties in NYC anyone?), a zeppelin doesn't actually seem that far-fetched. In a recent phone conversation with Airship Ventures CEO Alex Hall, SF Weekly learned that the Eureka is the only zeppelin in the Bay Area, and 23andMe paid anywhere between $100,000 and $750,000 for the coveted ad spot starting at the beginning of July (Hall wouldn't specify the exact amount the company paid). Guess now we know where all of that Google money is going. Check out this cool stop-motion transition video to see how the latest 23andMe branding went up.

Prior to 23andMe, the zeppelin featured advertisements for Disney's latest Pixar flick, Up. Some might argue that the sight of a Disney movie advertisement on the side of a giant zeppelin in the sky is somewhat less disconcerting than the sight of an advertisement for a company that still has a ways to go in the regulations department. Still others seem to think, awesome new technology aside, the zeppelin thing is just plain creepy. Lemurs and chimps at the San Francisco zoo don't care what the heck is written on the side -- they just generally hate zeppelins.

According to Gawker, there's all sorts of crazy connections between the zeppelin company and its current 23andMe advertisers. They report that Airship Ventures is backed by Google, whose co-founder Sergey Brin is married to 23andMe co-founder, Anne Wojciki. They add that Airship Ventures is also funded by Esther Dyson, who provides funding for 23andMe.

Too bad there isn't any sort of weird cheek-swab testing to trace the money trail.  

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Anna McCarthy


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