You see them everywhere you go as you drive through your local suburbs, cruising by the strip mall shopping center:
The sign twirler, sign spinner, human directional sign, sign waver, sign flipper, living sign, or a casual sign holder on a stick . And you always do the same thing as you drive by: “hey, look at that idiot with the sign!”
Sign Holder Advertising:
The Walking, Dancing, Smiling & Waving Billboard:
Marketing Strategy and Psychology behind sign holder advertising
That’s the odd thing about seeing a professional human billboard at work — if they’re doing their job right, you notice the person more than the sign that they’re holding.
For some, you feel sorry for the low man on the business totem poll who the boss elected to go stand out on the street that day. For others, you worry about their sanity, whether they’re getting enough liquids after exerting themselves that much on such a hot summer day.
In reality, do GIANT ADVERTISING ARROW BILLBOARDS really succeed in driving traffic to a business that uses them? Web Watch pondered that recently, and our observation is primarily “NO”. For some businesses, such as pointing people to a hard-to-find real estate development, there can be significant value of having a larger corner presence than the typical yard sign would be.
But for strip mall businesses, a living billboard’s primary purpose is for impulse purchases. They’re a reminder that the advertised business is in the shopping center, but unless those who drive by have a reason to stop in, the sign twirler may be wasting their time entirely.
Web Watch appreciates the lunchtime signs – grabbing a sandwich as we run errands is an impulse purchase. “Hey, there’s a Quiznos/Subway/other National Chain over there – let’s grab a bite”.
But for a haircut? Mattress sale? Buying gold? Those sign wavers are just a way to bypass the shopping center’s official signage. If we didn’t already know that those businesses were in the shopping center, having a person waving a giant arrow in our face is not going to encourage us to stop in. At least one SIGN EVENT company agrees with us — they say that “Sign walkers are designed to attract attention and interest from impulse buyers”.
But are sign spinners effective? According to LIBERTY TAX SERVICE – that company that dresses people as the Statue of Liberty at tax time – they are able to hire 10,000 seasonal workers as human billboards. That’s a lot of tax returns that get processed, and for them – you can see that the extra advertising effort has really paid off.
As for how much money should a professional sign twirler make? Part-time gigs pull in an average of $9-$11 per hour for the kid out on the street, while the service itself charges the advertising business around $30-$40 an hour for the service.
But there can be some major money in sign spinning. The LOS ANGELES TIMES reported in 2007 that one talented HUMAN DIRECTIONAL is an in-demand sign holder of such renown that he is earning $70 an hour for his skills and promotional ability. That company, AARROW ADVERTISING, claims to have trademarked over 500 different sign twirling moves into their self-described TRICKTIONARY.
That last line brings up a question of whether specific sign spinning choreography can be copyrighted or trademarked. As one commenter who claims to work for AARROW said, there is a reason for wanting to protect their intellectual property:
There is a great deal of skill, talent, and practice that goes into perfecting these tricks, not to mention the numerous injuries one sustains until acheiving success. Many of our tricks are so complicated that anyone trying to steal them wouldn’t be able to – but since we DO have an exclusive training and trick system, it’s important to ensure that no one leaves our company and takes our moves with them
Certainly does make sense as to the WHY. But on the other hand, there’s only so many ways one can flip a giant arrow around that it could be difficult for any court of law to say that AARROW’s version was completely unique and original to others. Now, if AARROW had a specific sign design that made performing their act easier/more professional — the sign design could be patented so no other sign flipping companies could infringe on that part of AARROW’s business.
So if you’re a free-spirit and willing to spend six hours a day in the beautiful sunshine with a giant piece of cardboard in your hand and some tunes in your ears, maybe being a professional sign twirler is in your future.
If you’re good, there’s certainly some money to be made.
If you’re not good, you’ll just end up looking like this guy: