by David Tandet

Here’s how it is: human billboards are a hot trend.

Consider:

• Darren Little’s TatAD agency in Vancouver, BC hires folks to wear temporary or permanent tattoos with clients’ names and logos.

• Entreprenuer.com defines human billboards as people that “hold signs or banners emblazoned with promotional and advertising messages in high-traffic areas of the community.” It calls HBoarding a terrific home based startup for entrepreneurs with good marketing skills.

• Microsoft kicked off its Windows Vista launch activities a couple of years back with a human billboard in downtown New York. “It’s a billboard. It’s marketing, except that it’s made by people,” Mike Sievert, corporate VP for Windows told CNET News.com. It was an elaborate performance. Elaborate and completely human.

So what’s going on? In an age when Google makes satellite photographic technology available to everyone at the touch of a finger, companies big and small are spending ad budgets on a form of marketing that exploded in 19th century London. That’s when wall posters started getting taxed and there was competition for use of allowable space.

Well as one dry cleaner who pays a sandwich boarded employee to parade back and forth in front of his business put it: “This gets noticed.”

And apparently it brings in customers.

Kind of ironic when you consider all the high-tech possibilities out there. Ironic, but perfectly sensible. When a prospect’s eyes glaze over from electronic jumbles of assorted images, the simple, ungilded (but often no less clever) notice carried by a living, breathing human can be the message that stands out above all else.

A human billboard will not be the only, or even major part of, most companies’ marketing budgets. But it is not a form of advertising to overlook, either. Not by a long shot.

Post filed under Foundations of Marketing, Sales Gold.