the pop singer Hanae poses with her own ad campaign | photo by @Hanae_xxx
The human billboard movement is nothing new. In 2009 the NYT reported on the phenomena, citing that tattoo-related advertising stunts go back to at least 2001, when an online gambling site paid a boxer to wear a temporary tattoo with its Web address during a televised bout. And more recently, Air New Zealand paid 30 people to become “cranial billboards” and wear campaign slogans on their shaved head.
But a Japanese PR agency called Absolute Territory PR (絶対領域広告) has put their own spin on things (taking the movement “from weird to icky”), enlisting young girls to wear temporary tattoo ads on their thighs. The service is relatively new – it launched in July 2012 and boasted 1300 walking billboards by November. Becoming a member is relatively simple: as long as you’re a female over 18 with more than 20 connections on a SNS (twitter, mixi, instagram, etc.) you can join. To get paid you have to wear a temporary tattoo for 8 hours or more and post pictures of it to your SNS in at least 2 different places. Rates start at 1000 yen per day and can go as high as 10,000 yen, depending on how many pictures you take.
It’s difficult to judge how much traction the service is gaining. They’ve run some campaigns for pretty big names including one for Takashi Murakami’s new book, Green Day’s new album in Japan (I wonder if Green Day knows their album was advertised on young girls’ thighs…) the book store chain Village/ Vanguard, and others. But at the same time, about half of all their campaigns have been ads for their own service. But that’s understandable given they’re so new.
The big question is effectiveness – I think it’s easy to argue for young girls’ thighs, but do ads placed on young girls thighs actually get eyeballs? Or are people too shy to walk up to a girl and stare at her legs long enough to make out what’s written? A couple people have experimented with mixed results. Rocket News claimed that the service worked for them, Dee Okinawa gained 0 new twitter followers (but got a lot of Facebook likes and comments) while Sipro crunched some numbers and found the service to be worthless.
The people behind Absolute Territory PR – a web consulting/production company called wit – have stated that the service is still in beta mode through the end of March 2013, at which point they’ll evaluate whether to keep it going or shut it down. Personally, I think that if you give it some time the service will catch on. After all, publicists will tell you that their job isn’t to personally get P.R. but, rather, to get other people to do it for them.