Mars Sucks: Why an LA Ad Agency Trolled Elon Musk on Earth Day

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

Mars Sucks: Why an LA Ad Agency Trolled Elon Musk on Earth Day

Most of the marketing around Earth Day is centered around our beautiful, yet delicate, planet. But a Los Angeles purpose-driven creative agency launched a cheeky campaign that focuses on the unappealing alternative – Mars.


The agency paid for a digital billboard to go live on Earth Day across from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, with the caption: "Mars Sucks." (A representative for Mars declined to comment.)

"We wanted to make a statement that would catch the world's attention, with the sole purpose of encouraging people to see the importance of prioritizing Earth," wrote Paco Conde and Beto Fernandez, founders of the agency Activista, in a joint email to dot.LA. "With SpaceX and Elon Musk representing Mars, the digital billboard outside SpaceX's HQ gave us a unique opportunity to make our statement that Mars can wait, but Earth can't – all in good humour, with a wink and a smile."

SpaceX is aiming to ferry tourists to Mars as soon as 2024.While seen as the most likely other planet in our solar system to host intelligent life, the Red Planet leaves a lot to be desired – with no breathable air, temperatures averaging a chilly -8 F and going as low as -220F, and punishing dust storms lasting months on end.

"Mars Sucks" billboard design and quote cards. See many more at their website below.

Conde and Fernandez say they are baffled as to why billionaires such as Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are so intent on going to Mars.

"We see some of the smartest and richest people on this planet dreaming of Mars," they wrote. "A hellhole that sucks. Really? Imagine if we had these same brilliant minds putting their genius into the climate crisis we're facing right now."

While the billboard will only be on display for 24 hours – until 6am PST Friday – a website and social media campaign will live on with the anti-Mars message. Visitors to the website are encouraged to donate to environmental groups.

Elon Musk has not responded to the billboard but plenty of others worldwide, including Russia's state news agency, have taken note on social media.

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