The 47-year-old grandmother of seven from
Greensboro, N.C. is one of 18 would-be human billboards advertising
themselves on eBay for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Her tight-lipped smile and thumbnail photos of her chest,
nails, and bottom suggest she is not the “southern belle” she
proclaims herself to be. She’s auctioning her entire
body, from her forehead to her “ghetto booty.” Her
asking price: $500. Any bidders? None. As a matter of fact,
no one is biting, not even for another woman selling ad space
on her body for $1.
Why the influx of people rushing to get themselves inked?
Maybe it’s because of Jim Nelson’s results, as he is considered
the world’s first human billboard. Nelson auctioned the
back of his head on eBay in 2003 and received $7,000 from the
winning bidder, CI Host, an Internet service provider. After
four hours of tattooing, Nelson was ready to show the streets
of Illinois, and soon the world, the five-inch logo permanently
etched on his skin. According to a CI Host press release, Nelson
must keep the tattoo visible at all times and make daily outings.
He is also required to travel domestically and internationally
at his own expense. If he fails to meet these contractual obligations,
it could cost him a hefty $25,000. The publicity surrounding
the stunt garnered media and public attention for Nelson and
CI Host, which has seen an increase it its Web site traffic.
Since then, copycats have popped up on eBay promoting various
body parts for sale. Nothing is sacred. Not even a Rottweiler’s
shaved back, which coincidentally is also up for bid.
Will this trend eventually wane? Not if, TatAD.com can help
it. Where eBay is not generating any bidders, this online body-advertising
firm is flourishing. It screams its slogan atop every page, “Get
Branded, Get Paid!” and is cashing in on this creative,
yet scarring, idea. TatAD offers free memberships to those seeking
to sell their skin to corporate sponsors. Registering with TatAD
doesn’t guarantee sponsorship, but they try to match registrants
with possible sponsors so they encourage people to write their
interests and whom they’d like to be sponsored by. This
gives the term “sellout” a whole new meaning, yet,
the Web site addresses that issue, as well, stating that there
is “no corporate sellout; in fact, it’s the other
Their mission, TatAD says, is about “providing companies
with loyal promoters and providing people with the compensation
they deserve for being loyal all these years.” Their Web
site states that it’s about time people get paid to advertise
since the average person already is a walking billboard showing
off logos on clothing, cigarettes, and so on.
Are people buying in? See for yourself. In just 40 days, more
than 500 people from Europe, Canada, and the United States,
registered as willing to be tattooed. TatAD encourages people
who sign up
to ask for as much money as they think they are worth. “You
can think of it as real estate,” the site states. “The
more desired exposure areas will cost more!” The first
person to sign up, who goes by the pseudonym “Sprinkles,” had
the logo for Thomas Lynch Fashions tattooed on her shoulder.
She was paid $1,000 for the silver dollar-sized tattoo.
We don’t want to revolutionize tattooing; we’re revolutionizing
advertising and the relationship between customer and company,” states
the Web site.
This “revolutionary” idea does not sit well with
just anyone. “You couldn’t pay me a million dollars
to promote Coors Light on my forehead or arm,” says 10-time
tattooed Jose Chavez. “It’s just a ridiculous concept,
and it’ll die out soon.”
Is this a smart investment for people seeking to make a quick
buck? Although, it may seem like a fun way to make some easy
cash, people must keep in mind that besides etching a permanent
scar on their skin, they also are entering into a business
commitment that can sometimes, as in Jim Nelson’s case,
lead to hefty fines if the contract is breached.
Fines aren’t the only heavy price to pay. When people put their profiles
on eBay, they also put themselves up for scrutiny. Peck received many negative
comments, one in particular asking her for the price of putting a saddle on her
back and riding her around town as a “rolling billboard.” In the
end, Peck had no bids, and a new list of wannabes decorated eBay’s page.
For now, this trend is just a blip on the radar, and it’s hard to say if
it’ll get bigger or disappear. Chavez said: “People have nothing
better to do with their time and are probably already looking for the next
bandwagon to jump on.”