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Marketing phenomenon of Human Billboards

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=sign+spinners&iid=7017554″ src=”e/2/5/f/Job_Fair_Held_4719.jpg?adImageId=9595458&imageId=7017554″ width=”234″ height=”144″ /]Went out today to take care of some errands and saw not one, but two sidewalk corner sign spinners hard at work in the winter sunshine.  I’ve been meaning to talk about this marketing phenomenon for awhile and what sparked this post today was the enthusiasm that radiated from the sign holder advertising a pizza eatery.  This young man was singing Michael Jackson songs at the top of his lungs and dancing all over the place while keeping his sign moving in time to his own music and – miraculously – still keeping the sign readable to those of us in cars passing by.

The other sign holder I passed by today was dressed in a Statue of Liberty costume and advertising a tax return preparation business [I think].  I was in the far lane going the other way, but pretty sure.

Our community isn’t that huge, just under 80,000, but we seem to have a lot of  human sign holder marketing going on.  Over the past year or so I’ve seen signs being waved, tossed and rocked by men and women, teens and older, advertising pizza, new housing, furniture store opening sales, furniture store closing sales, tax preparation services, new restaurant opening, retirement apartment openings and much more.  I can remember a time when the only human held signs advertising something were by high school students letting folks know about their car wash at the gas station across the street.

I wondered about this so I did a little research and found a small article at Entrepreneur [dot com] talking about the home-business idea of human billboards.   According to the article, “…Human billboards advertise everything from new home developments to car dealerships and are starting to catch on as a highly effective cost-efficient method of advertising and promoting their products and services. Human billboards are simply people that hold signs or banners emblazoned with promotional and advertising messages in high-traffic areas of the community; usually outside, in front, or in close proximity to the business they are promoting….”

It seems that the whole idea behind this unique method of advertising is to get noticed.  Humans carrying advertising signs is nothing new in commerce…been around for a long time.  However, it fell out of practice only to become new again.  To be truthful though, it’s becoming so common that I don’t actually pay attention to them anymore…except for that singing young man today.   It was like watching a street performer…and he was good; as far as I could tell in the whole 5 seconds it took for my car to pass by.

The photo above shows a fellow with AArrow Advertising practicing his moves.  I looked them up and they have some interesting history of human signage on their about us page.  Their philosophy, in part:

  • “…a new advertising medium that is hard to forget and impossible to ignore. Each AArrow Sign Spinner is trained to perform hundreds of tricks and endless combinations; instantly creating a stage for this new-age type of performance. AArrow Advertising employees take pride in our ability to create a one-on-one advertising experience with each person that passes us by delivering what no other form of advertising can: eye contact and a smile….”

Another company I found, EyeShot, says of itself, “…If you’re looking for a reliable way to direct traffic to a new home community, the grand opening of a retail center, a hard to find service location, or a great new restaurant, EyeShot gives you many creative and highly effective methods to ‘point the way’ and grab the attention of your customers….”

Interestingly, at the top of their webpage in the banner, EyeShot shows some examples and locations – two of those locations are right in my geographical area…one in my community and one just up the road.  In fact one of the errands I had to run today involved driving the 20 minutes [not in commute traffic time, would have taken most of an hour] to that community that has a shop where I purchase wild bird seed.

I, along with other artists and a selection of local vintners, will take part in an “art and wine crawl” in our downtown tomorrow evening.  Artists and wineries are being paired with a business and folks can stroll around downtown for several hours tasting the various wines, eating hors d’oeurves, [hopefully] buying some artwork and visiting the hosting businesses.  I’m being stationed along with two other artists in a particular business and we’ll have a sign on the sidewalk reading something like “more art here.”  I wonder, should we have someone dancing outside and spinning our sign?

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Meet David Gash and Prova-something new in advertising

You really seldom come across something new nowadays.  I mean actually new…not done before.  Radically different.  Prova is something new; different and fills a very real need in the world of small business and advertising.

Marketing is that part of a business’ life that deals with telling the public:

  • who they are
  • what they offer
  • why the public needs its products and services
  • where it can be found

Without marketing efforts, the public will not:

  • know who you are
  • know what you offer
  • know why they need your products or services
  • know where they can find your business

Marketing involves various ways and means of getting information out there:

  • promotional materials: business cards, postcards, flyers, blogs, websites, other online social media
  • paid advertising: display ads both print and online, radio and television spots

The idea is to use every possible means so that your prospective customer might learn of your business and offerings.  The biggest challenge for small business owners is cost.  And time.

Let’s say you have a housekeeping business in your community. How do you let homeowners know of your business and services?  You could put an ad in the telephone yellow pages; an ad in the local newspaper; maybe a radio spot.  But by far the best means might be door hangers and postcards.  Your budget is small so you go for door hangers and postcards.  Now the challenge becomes how to design the most effective materials to achieve the goal – which is gaining new clients.  What image should go on the piece?  What should the editorial content be?  Who in the community can do this at a price you can afford if you don’t posses these skills?  Most small businesses cannot afford to go to an ad agency for a postcard design.  Most can’t afford the time and expense to generate bids among agencies.  So where can they look?

prova_advertising_logoDavid Gash, owner and originator of Prova, has an answer.  David graciously agreed to be interviewed and let me in on some of the thinking involved with his innovative business.

Q:  Prova, in my estimation, is a truly unique service.  What gave you this idea?  Were you a business in need of ads, or a designer looking for clients?

David: When I started my own lawn care company I had to create postcards, door hangers, and other ads for my business.  I hated it.  I would spend hours looking for images online that I could use.  I would debate over different headlines, and it took way too long to create the design.  I always ended up with a design that looked nice, but wasn’t effective at attracting customers.  I never had “advertisement” training, so I didn’t know the importance of a powerful headline, USP, or a call to action.  I created my own ads because I couldn’t afford to hire an ad agency, but I knew how crucial advertising is.  I fell into the same trap as so many other business owners.

After college (business/marketing degree) I realized how many small businesses suffered from this same problem (lack of advertising knowledge), I knew I could create a solution.  Countless companies don’t advertise because they don’t know how and they don’t want to spend the money on an agency.  So many small businesses that DO advertise, do it
ineffectively.  So many people believe putting their logo, phone number, & photo on an advertisement will compel their customers to call.

I was a business in need of ads, and I wasn’t satisfied with the current methods out there which were to:

  1. Create it myself – Much more time consuming than I originally thought.
  2. Hire a freelancer – It’s very time consuming to compare bids, profiles, and portfolios.  I’ve often hired a freelancer, only to have him disappear.  It’s very frustrating to hire someone and get work that is subpar.
  3. Hire an agency – Way too expensive and I still don’t know if I’ll like what I get.

Q:  Why the name Prova?

David: The name Prova sounds fun to say and we love it.

Q: How did you come up with the “contest” idea?

David: The original idea was to create a “place” where people could try out graphic design and see if they like it.  I know there’s people out there that are GREAT at graphic design, LOVE IT, and are very FAST.  I wanted to create a “place” for these people to get paid for doing what they love. I wanted a place where young designers could have a REASON to practice making designs, and expert designers could get paid for their SKILL.  It’s one thing to practice making fake designs for fake companies, but if you’ve got a real client that you can make a design for, with the potential of getting paid for it, you’ll be much more motivated to create a design.  The very act of creating these designs will give you more experience.

Then I thought, to get this “place,” I need to make an “arena” where businesses can say, “I need a postcard, advertising my furniture sale next month.  Here’s the details, I need it in 2 weeks, and I’ll pay $250 to whoever creates the best design.”  I didn’t intend for it to be a “contest,” but it sort of turned out that way.

Q:  What is the appeal of your business to ad designers?

David: The appeal is an opportunity to get paid for your skill.  Rather than entering bidding wars on freelance jobs, at Prova your skill will speak for you.  We also offer designers more experience pitching to real clients, more exposure for yourself, and more experience in graphic design.

Q:  Typically, how many designers participate in a design contest?

David: Currently, our contests are getting over 30 unique designs each.  Our first contest received 66 designs, and a recent logo contest received 56 designs.  If you’re active in providing feedback, or offer more than $250, you’ll receive even more entries (Our first batch of clients weren’t as active.)

Q:  If I understand correctly, once a contest is over, the ads designed can be uploaded into your template library at the choice of the designers – correct?  Does this give designers a second way to possibly earn income through Prova?  Also, does it give small business clients a second “store” so-to-speak?  Can a business purchase an already designed ad rather than order a contest?

David: You are correct.  Any design that isn’t selected as a winning contest entry can be automatically placed in our template directory.  This gives each designer the opportunity to sell their designs much like an artist would in a studio.  And as you discovered, Small Business clients who don’t want to run a contest, can browse our directory and download a design they like.  Template designs cost less and are great for local industries (such as lawn care), where the same design can be used all over the country, just by changing the company info.  And all templates will be customized for your business within two business days free of charge.

Q:  Who is your ideal small business client?  In which market niche do you see your business offering to be most valuable?

David: Since this is an extremely unique concept, it’s hard to tell who will benefit the most from Prova.  Prova is currently the only company specifically designed to get a powerful advertisement created for your business, at the price you pick.  We’re the only company specific to the ad design industry that operates in this format.  Our services are valuable to any business owner who wants an advertisement that will attract more customers, without the hassle of traditional methods.  The business owner that realizes it’s better to let a trained expert design an ad than spend 10-20 hours on it yourself, is our ideal client.  We make it easier for businesses to realize this, since they can set their
own price.

If you’ve got a new business, Prova is great for getting your logo and website designed, while keeping you within your budget.

Q:  Are you seeing a trend in the type(s) of ads being asked for by small businesses?  Are businesses still utilizing “old” advertising of the print variety – everything from flyers to billboards, or are you seeing more online ad use?

David: Usually print ads are requested.  Of course, that’s the audience we’ve been targeting.  The most common ‘online’ ad is a website design.  Keep in mind, everything your business designs is part of your advertising image.  And your ad image is what we create.

Q:  What is typical ad being asked for by your business clients?

David: Postcards, Door hangers, Logos, and website designs.

Lime Face from Prova

Lime Face from Prova

Thank you David!

In doing this interview it made me think…and observe in my own neighborhood.  My office is located at the front of my home and has big windows that look out onto the front yard and neighborhood.  This is not an “upscale” neighborbood by any means, but there are many 2-income families – many of whom commute to the Silicon Valley [CA, USA] which means they have little time for yard work or housekeeping.

There are several different landscape services and housekeeping service businesses who have clients in this area so my front door is frequently loaded with door hangers; also the welcome mat has postcards tucked just under the edge.  The other type of business that utilizes leave-at-the-door print advertising is the real estate business.  We also find business cards, flyers and little newsletters tucked under the edge of the welcome mat.  Unless the landscape service, housekeeping business or real estate agent is producing their own promotional materials at home on their home computers, they are paying someone.  And competition is fierce.

As a consumer I really do look at message and message delivery.  It seems that Prova is filling a unique spot for small businesses:  doing what they cannot do by bringing good designers in to develop designs and messages “on spec.”  I worked as an advertising designer at one time in my early career and found that if Prova had been around then, I would have been ecstatic.  I like the idea, from a designer point-of-view, that if the client does not choose my design, the design isn’t “lost;” rather it goes into Prova’s template “shop.”  Who knows?  Someone else may purchase it and my time wasn’t for naught.

Give Prova.fm a look.  

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You really do have to advertise your business

If you are in business, you have to advertise.  If you hope to make a profit, you have to advertise.  If you want people to know about your business, your product or your service…you have to advertise.

Advertising is letting people know…it’s disseminating information that you think people need in order to:

  • find you or your place of business [whether a physical building or an internet address]
  • know what your business has to offer
  • make an informed decision as to whether to visit or purchase or hire…whatever it is you want customers to do

Advertising has little to no cost and has big costs:

  • word-of-mouth doesn’t cost a penny, but is extremely valuable – you need the goodwill of your current customers with the hope of getting referral customers
  • publicity doesn’t cost more than time, paper and postage: press releases, flyers, car decals, business cards, your business’s web address in your email signature, social networking online
  • ad space is where the money comes in: whether ad space online or in your local newspaper or other types of publications or radio and television

You could do billboards and sidewalk sandwich boards.  You could even hire those folks who’ll put on those costumes and dance on street corners.

Regardless of what your business is, you do have to advertise.  You do need to tell people what your business is all about and why they need your product.  Or service.

If you have a home-based, network marketing business or direct selling business…you do have to advertise.  Whether it’s face-to-face telling folks about your business or putting up ads online using Goggle’s adwords, you have to find a way to drive customers to your door.

So…what part of your current business plan addresses this all-important component?

**here’s my advertisement: for information about a great home-based business visit my website.

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