Human Ads – A Trend That May Go Mainstream Soon

(Michael Schumacher, seven time F1 driver’s title during press conference with cap bearing his longtime sponsor Deutsche Vermögensberatung)

What would you do to gain extra income on a monthly basis? Drive with Uber or Lyft? Hosting a guests with Airbnb? Wrapping ads on your car enabled by Wrapify? All of the above?

And what would you do if you love a particular brand(s) so much? Buy their stuff on daily basis (like Starbucks, although the taste may not that different than other local coffee shops)? Buy their merchandises everytime you go for overseas trip (like Planet Hollywood mugs and t-shirts)? Sell your kidney?

The first situation is where you need money but don’t love the brand. The second is where you love the brand but gained nothing (at least financially) from the company that you indirectly endorse. Only plain satisfaction.

What if it’s a matter of time before you can do both?

Michael Schumacher, the seven-time F1 driver’s champion is one of the highest-paid sportsperson in the world, where during his final years at Scuderia Ferrari, he reportedly earned around USD50 million annually. Don’t forget to add some endorsement and sponsorship money, as well as appearance fees. After all, according to Forbes his total career earnings was close to USD1 billion. You don’t earn few hundred millions by being modest (and mediocre) right?

USD1 billion aside, the one that really caught my attention was his hat. And not just an ordinary hat. It’s not even a Ferrari-branded hat either.

It was a hat that bears the logo of German financial advisory firm, Deutsche Vermögensberatung or DVAGIn case you never noticed, he wore that hat on every post-race press conference. And since he is statistically one of the greatest driver in F1 history (with countless post-race press conferences), DVAG’s logo has appeared prominently with millions of eyeballs attracted to it every race weekends. The partnership that started in 1997 continued even after Michael has stopped racing in F1 as DVAG currently sponsors his son (Mick) as well.

How much it costs DVAG for Michael to wear that hat? A cool USD3.5 million per year. Yes, 3 million dollar annually just to wear a hat.

(Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge at Albany course on 2017 in Nassau, Bahamas. Photo by Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)

And what about Tiger Woods and his Nike’s sponsorship? Even during the scandal that rocked the golf legend and made few sponsors (like Accenture and Gatorade) left him, Nike stuck with him and continued to be one of his main sponsor. And so the USD20 million per annum sponsorship continues, where Nike’s swoosh logo appears on his shirt and hat.

So how soon before we could earn as much as Michael Schumacher’s DVAG or Tiger Wood’s Nike sponsorship and quit our job (and travel the world)? Unfortunately, not so soon if you really wanna reach that same level of money. But if you eager even a fraction of that, the solution may have arrived, at least in Japan.

A human ads.

Human Ads – Not Something New


Human ads are not something totally new.

Back in 19th century in London, it was said that the trend of “human billboards” began when competition for space was getting fierce. It also gave another trend like human sandwich board (where a person wore one board each at the front and back). And it wasn’t limited to promoting a specific brands or products either. Remember the iconic image of Ned Parfett, the young newspaper boy holding Evening News poster announcing the sunk of Titanic with the loss of thousands of life. 

And during the dotcom bubble (and bust), there were people who even tattooed part of their body with now-defunct dotcom companies’ logos and brands. Safe to say that most of those tattoos survived the dotcom until today bust whilst most of those brands itself went to dotcom graveyard. But unlike those billboards, those tattoos are not easily removed, so jokes aside, it probably would stuck there for years to come. If you wanna feel nostalgic about those defunct companies, feel free to browse them here

And now it’s 2018, the age of social networking, geolocation tracking, embedded chips and gig economy. So what’s old is new again. And in Japan, it’s one underarm at a time.

Yes, your underarm is the next valuable ad space.

The Wakino Ad Company (“wakino” mean armpit in Japanese) has started an advertising model where people would be paid up to 80 bucks per hour just to wear a small stickers under their arms on public transport, where theoretically would be visible once those ‘underarm models’ hang on to overhead straps.

Oh and their client so far? Only one company, Sheishin Biyo Clinic. Their business? Underarm hair removal.

And no, it is not the first time a Japanese company is sticking or brandishing a logo on a human body. Back in 2013, an ad agency launched an ad scheme where a temporary tattoos would be attached to a girls’ thigh. At a place where abundance of billboards with neon lights and large TV screens gets the attention of Japanese consumers, it certainly forced any ad agencies to get better and creative to attract more and more eyeballs. Potential sexism and exploitation aside, it was an interesting ideas to get men’s attention (to say the least).

But it shouldn’t be that way. There are always another avenue of advertising without having to resort to permanently having logo brandished on your cheek or arm or letting others ogling at your underarm or thigh.

A plain old t-shirt, cotton or otherwise. And L.L.Bean already move into this direction by embedding a chip (and connected to Ethereum) into their product line.


Built-in Chip Would Be The Key

Apparently if you’re looking for L.L.Bean’s t-shirt or polo shirt, it wasn’t actually ready yet. For now, L.L. Bean only sew an embedded chip on their coats and boots in order to understand how their customers would use their outdoor gears. But if it works, why wouldn’t they (or any other apparel companies) go further and sew all their products with a smart chip? Not only they would have an insight about how their customers use their products, they could also understand how effective certain products at certain demographics, geographical area or even weather.

Or even better, what if any companies who wants to promote their brands could manufacture and embed their detachable decals with an embedded chip, which can be attached to any t shirt and tracked using geolocation tracking not unlike how Uber or Grab tracking their vehicles? And people could be nudged to be part of the gig network by per km basis or something similar.

Some may ask, why would you wear a shirt with an embedded chip inside its decals?

Because it could be the next trend of human ads, enabled by big data and probably blockchain as well, just like L.L.Bean.

How many of us wear some t-shirt with a logo of some football team? Or one of their sponsors? Or maybe a logo of some certain IT company that recently becoming the first trillion dollar company? And how much we were getting paid for indirectly promoting those brands whilst we were doing our daily chores or stuck in subway? I think the amount would be valued close to zilch. Nada.

And instead of getting paid of zero dollars for indirectly promoting them, wouldn’t it be better if we get paid instead?

Similar to the previous article here, human ads could be the next trend that would enabled us the mere mortal earning some money through gig economy. Not everyone has a car to drive with Uber or Lyft. And not everyone has extra apartment unit to be part of Airbnb network. But everyone has at least a pair of t-shirt or polo shirt, and therefore could join the new “Uber for human ads”, whenever that might be.

And with NFC-enabled embedded chip, those companies and their ad agencies could theoretically track the location of the t-shirt and see whether or not it’s in a vicinity of highly-populated areas like a football stadium or a public transportation station. With no political, legal or environmental issues to deal with like stuffing more carbon-based vehicles on an already-busy street like in New York, the potential of this business model should not be underestimated.

So far I haven’t found a startup that’s interested in doing this. But don’t underestimate its potential growth, as it’s less costly to acquire a new polo shirt than a Honda Civic or even a small apartment in Manhattan.

Honestly, if such gig network launched tomorrow, I might be the first in line to register. Provided they have my favourite brands (Casio G-Shock, Van Houten, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, AirAsia) of course.

We might not look as cool (or as rich) as Michael Schumacher or Tiger Woods with wearing shirt, but at least it could earn us some money while flaunting our favourite brands. And something is always better than nothing.


Prepare For Some Awkward Situations


It goes without saying that not all brands are suitable for be part of the network, especially the one rated as PG. After all, I’m not sure if you really want a 10-year old kid staring a Viagra logo on some dude’s polo shirt. And to that dude, if you ever happen to wear a shirt with such logo, perhaps it’s best if you avoid going near any school or places filled with kids.

And wearing these kind of t-shirts would definitely raised an eyebrows as well in some places. So check the sensitivity (and grammar) as well before you want to stuff your shirt with logos like those F1 drivers.

And wearing this kind of ad in Harlem would almost definitely gets you killed. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.


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