Friday, May 04, 2007

Getting in front of eyeballs

Hip-hop wannabees also have skills that pay off. In my part of the world, "human directionals" can be seen by most busy intersections. They do put standard billboards to shame. A recent LA Times front-page feature (excerpted below) tells the story.

The fine art of making a point ... 'Human
directionals' -- those guys spinning advertising arrows -- can cost $60 an hour.
Some of their best moves are filed in the patent office.

By Alana Semuels
May 1, 2007

JEREMY White was holding a sign advertising $5 pizza deals at
Little Caesars in North Hollywood when two young men stopped their white pickup
truck.After noticing his strong arms and athletic frame, they made him an
instant offer. "We can pay you $10 an hour. Give us a call," White recalled the
men saying.

A few days later, the 20-year-old met them at a North
Hollywood park where coaches with clipboards barked at dozens of teenagers doing
push-ups, part of a regimen preparing them to spin arrow-shaped signs for
tanning salons and new homes. Four days later, White quit his Little Caesars gig
to join the men's company, Aarrow Advertising of San Diego.

The payoff was immediate: $10 an hour, almost double his
previous wages. During his second day on the job, a passerby was so impressed
with his spinning that she gave him a $250 Croton watch. Within a month, he got
a raise to $15 an hour. "I don't like to toot my own horn, but I'm one of the
best out there," White said.

White is part of the competitive world of "human
directionals," an industry term for people who twirl signs outside restaurants,
barbershops and new real estate subdivisions.

Street corner advertising on human billboards has existed for
centuries, but Southern California — where the weather allows sign spinners to
work year-round — has endowed the job with style.

Local spinners have cooked up hundreds of moves. There's the
Helicopter, in which a spinner does a backbend on one hand while spinning a sign
above his head. In the Blender, a spinner twirls the sign behind his back.
Spanking the Horse gets the most attention. The spinner puts the sign between
his legs, slaps his own behind and giddy-ups.

Thanks to growing demand, the business has turned cutthroat.
There's a frenzy of talent poaching. Spinners battle one another for plum
assignments and the promise of wage hikes. Some of the more prominent compete
for bragging rights by posting videos on YouTube and Google Video, complete with
trash talking. One YouTube comment reads, "i don't know if you stole my tricks
or i just do them better."