Car Owners and California History Buffs Cry: Save the Union 76 Ball!
Click to view petition.
LOS ANGELES- In 2005, ConocoPhillips, the Texas-based energy company that took over the historic California Unocal refineries and gas stations in 2002, commenced a campaign of design terrorism, ripping down the hugely popular orange and blue "76" branded ball signs in favor of a generic flattened red and blue disk.
To give the public a chance to be heard, an online petition has been launched by the authors of L.A.’s 1947project crime history blog. Signers are declaring their intention to boycott if ConocoPhillips doesn’t reverse their redesign policy and show proper respect for the beloved 76 ball brand.
Petition co-writer Nathan Marsak, author of "Los Angeles Neon," says "Our urban fabric will lose a groovy, sexy element of its attraction with the disappearance of this turning orb‹an orb that still speaks "progress!" and "fun!" as opposed to its replacement, which resembles some sort of giant tombstone."
The 76 Ball is one of the 20th Century’s most successful and enduring design icons. It has its origins in 1932’s "Spirit of 76" advertising campaign promoting Union Oil’s 76 octane fuel. The orange globe first appeared in 1947, with the familiar version of the design launched in 1962, with the Seattle World’s Fair design by Ray Pedersen. In 1967, Unocal launched their wildly popular car antenna ball promotion, distributing 2,500,000 million of the miniature 76 balls in 1993 alone, and creating an antenna-top marketing revolution.
Here’s what some of the petition’s signers are saying: "I actually buy 76 gas because of their historic branding and am proud to have a 76 ball on my vintage 1963 car." (Mary-Margaret Stratton). . . "I used to buy from a 76 station only 2 blocks from my house. The day ConocoPhillips changed it to red and blue, I stopped patronizing it." (Guy Kudlemyer) . . . "It’s like McDonald’s dumping the arches. Just wrong!" (Sean Russ). . . "How can you destroy such a trusted icon?" (Kyle Barnes). . . "Please stop destroying American history." (Steve Tepperman).
Petition co-writer Kim Cooper muses, "If ConocoPhillips’ intention was to lose any goodwill their customers feel towards the 76 brand, they’re off to a great start. In 2004 they withdrew fuel sponsorship of NASCAR–killing off the longest such relationship in the history of the organization–and in late 2005 began chopping down the big orange pumpkin balls that cheer our urban landscape. Since my local station had its orange ball removed, I’ve started filling my tank elsewhere, and from our petition it sounds like many others are doing the same."
Petition authors Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak are available for interviews.
See the petition here.