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The Billboard Effect


BY Christine Davidson

Andrew Fischer and Shaune Bagwell: paid to display

In a world where advertisements lurk around every corner, it’s hard to imagine that untapped advertising spaces could still exist, but marketing masters are indeed finding new and unexpected places to get their messages across.

The latest innovation in the branding race comes from a Japanese telecom firm that over the summer launched an “information rain” campaign.

NTT Cyber Solution Laboratory’s weather-mimicking approach involves projecting images of raindrops hitting the ground onto the sidewalk. As people walk into these “rainy” areas and hold out their hands to feel the drops, a sensor tracks the movement, triggering the projection of a company’s ad onto their palms.

The Japanese firm is not the only pioneer into the world of human advertising. Over the past year, enterprising Americans have been paid big money to display advertisements on various parts of their bodies.

Last January, 20-year-old Andrew Fischer from Omaha, Nebraska, sold space on his forehead to a pharmaceutical company for over $37,000 US on eBay. For 30 days, he wore a temporary tattoo of the company’s logo while travelling across the United States, attracting media attention from around the world.

Texas swimsuit model and actor Shaune Bagwell sold ad space on her cleavage to an online casino for over $15,000 US. And the same casino paid South Carolina mother-to-be Amber Rainey $4,000 US to display an ad on her belly until her due date.

So, where will the marketers take it from here? Zeke Zavier, creative marketing director of Toronto-based Tatad.com, which specializes in human billboard advertising, says he’s confident ads will next make the leap from humans to food.

His company hopes to help usher in the era of branded groceries, as broker for a fruit and vegetable equipment business that holds the patent for laser-labelling produce.

The idea, explains Zavier, is that a company would subsidize the price of tomatoes to have their logo tattooed onto the fruit in return. So the next time you pick up an apple in your local grocery store, don’t be surprised to see the words “Eat well, brought to you by Sony.”

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