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A Real Head For Advertising

You can't get away from ads and commercials these days. They are on bus benches, all over sports stadiums, and now they're in that place that used to be a sanctuary from advertising — your local movie theater. Some magazines have more ads than articles, and TV and radio commercials seem to dominate the airwaves. There are even ads in urinals, although I can't imagine why anyone would want their product name to be watered in this manner. And in case you think it can't possibly get any worse, think again. The latest trend in advertising is for slogans and logos to be tattooed on people's bodies.

More and more people are renting out their bodies these days. Many of them auction themselves off on E-bay. One man got over $30,000 to put a temporary tattoo on his forehead advertising something called "SnoreStop." He's not on a TV with this tattoo. He just walks around, using his head as a billboard. An online casino has advertised on the backs of more than 40 boxers. A female runner will wear a tattoo ad for an appetite suppressant when she runs in the next Boston Marathon. (This is particularly ironic since I think seeing any tattoos on certain bodies would automatically be an appetite suppressant.) Most of the time, these slogans are temporary tattoos, but a California restaurant has offered free food for life to anybody who will get a permanent tattoo representing the restaurant. Is there anyone out there who doubts that they'll find a volunteer?

The forehead is the most popular place for the ads. Other choice locations are arms and hands and a pregnant woman's stomach. Maybe soon, Gerber's will start advertising mashed-up chicken on pregnant women's bellies. I don't even want to think about where the makers of Viagra are going to want to advertise.

How effective can this method of advertising be? How many people are going to come into contact with one of these human commercials? Besides, to put it mildly, isn't this whole thing just a tad undignified and tasteless? Selling one's body or body parts may be a long-standing tradition, but it's never been one that's been respected by society. And what about the companies who choose to advertise like this? If you see the words, "Smith's Funeral Parlor" on some guy's forehead, are you more or less likely to use Smith's the next time a loved one passes away?

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Crazed sports fans have been painting their favorite team logos and names on their bodies for years. But these sports enthusiasts do these things because of love, commitment to team, and cheap beer. But now companies are actually paying money to put their product names on people's bodies. Those who are selling space on themselves somehow make the guy in the bleachers with the letters C-U-B-S on his hairy gut seem like a role model.

I've been looking for the silver lining in all this, and I think I found it. This advertising trend will benefit two groups that are often maligned: bald people and overweight folks. Because they have more room for words on their bodies, they'll become the most sought-after models for this type of advertising. After they become successful, look for some discrimination suits filed by thin and full-haired people.

Maybe I'm taking it all too seriously. Maybe it's just a fun way to get some recognition for a product. Maybe it's just an easy way for someone with skin and a sense of humor to make a buck. Am I overreacting to what is just the latest example of good ol' American ingenuity? I don't think so. I can't imagine paying someone to have the words "Read Lloyd's Column" on his forehead. I have much too much dignity for that. On the other hand, if any of you readers want to advertise my column for the same reasons that sports fans paint their bodies, there's nothing I can do to stop you. This is still a "Free Country" — as we'll probably be reading on some candidates' heads in the next election.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver
By Lloyd Garver

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