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British Expat Newsletter:
22 August 2007

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week:Walking adverts
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

We came across a weird story this week – apparently in 2005 a woman had the URL of an online casino tattooed across her forehead, just under the hairline. The casino paid her $10,000 to do it, which she reckoned was like receiving $1 million. (How she worked that out, I’m not quite sure.) The tattooist spent seven hours trying – and, it would seem, failing – to talk her out of it.

Walking adverts – or human billboards, as some people call them – are nothing very new. Not very surprisingly, the practice seems to have arisen not too long after the dawn of industrialisation, in early 19th-century London. A tax on advertisement posters, and the banning of posters on private property, meant that advertisers had to look elsewhere for space to show off their products.

Sandwich boards were the result. They had the advantage of being mobile, thus drawing active attention to the product they were advertising; and the double spread meant twice as much advertising space. All the same, the novelty soon wore off, and the advertisers were forced to resort to ever more ingenious ways of capturing the public’s attention. Costumes of the same shape as the product, or double sandwiches (ie a board to either side as well as in front and behind), gave increased prominence to the sandwich board man. Even in Edwardian times the sandwich board was a familiar sight on many city streets – as, for instance, the five men wearing tall white hats bearing the letters H, E, L, Y, ‘S in the Dublin of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Oddly, though, sandwich boards seem to be a peculiarity of the English-speaking world; they don’t seem to have had much of an impact in Europe, where Morris columns (advertising pillars) were – and remain – a much more popular street feature.

Perhaps it was inevitable that clothing should increasingly become an advertising medium. T-shirts advertising the 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz are amongst the earliest examples of these, and are much sought after by collectors. But it was after the Second World War that both T-shirts and slogans on them really came into their own. Political slogans for US Presidential candidates were initially popular, but soon got overtaken by consumer product logos, particularly brands with youth appeal. Sponsorship on sports shirts, particularly football shirts, followed some years later, although it was a good decade before teams in the UK followed their counterparts in Europe. And the culmination of all this happened from the 1980s onwards, when people started paying a premium for clothes – and particularly trainers – with obvious branding marks on them, precisely for the brand label.

Even in the midst of all this, the sandwich board never entirely disappeared, though with the advent of motor transport billboards became far more popular. More common today, though, is the “human directional” – a person carrying a placard with a sign pointing to where the product or service can be bought. There are plenty of these in London’s Oxford Street, generally advertising a “golf sale”, whatever one of those might be. In parts of the US, they’ll twirl their signs to give a more eye-catching display – although concern for motorists’ safety has led some cities to ban that particular practice.

In the never-ending search of the advertiser for something new and shocking, the most bizarre of all is the use of the human body itself to carry an advert. The woman with the casino URL was a particularly striking example of this; but she wasn’t the first person by any means to wear a tattoo for advertising purposes. Come to that, she wasn’t even the first person to do it for that particular casino – that dubious honour went to a boxer back in 2001. Meanwhile, others have offered parts of their body as advertising space. Women have even had their breasts enhanced – to quite a gross extent in some cases – to increase both the amount of space available to the advertiser, and the likelihood of people gawping at the advert.

But even they’re not the most extreme case. One guy even allows people to pin adverts to his body!

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

[Obsolete content and links removed]

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • features overdue babies
  • durian fruit medical prop
  • find smurfs
  • massage parlour in trafalgar square
  • talking yerinals
  • coffeeology poster
  • piddle
  • quotation of indian flag & education
  • what is living conditions of a beggar
  • weird essex

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine


“Three bob a day, walking the gutters, street after street. Just keep skin and bone together, bread and skilly… Doesn’t bring in any business either.”

– James Joyce, Irish author (1882-1941), in Ulysses (about the Hely’s sandwich board men).


An advertising team is working very late at night on a project due the next morning. Suddenly, a genie appears before them and offers each of them one wish.

The copywriter says: “I’ve always dreamed of writing a monumental novel and having my work acclaimed by critics everywhere. I’d like to go to a tropical island where I can concentrate and write my masterpiece.”

The genie says, “No problem!” and poof! The copywriter is gone.

The art director says: “I want to create a painting so beautiful that it would hang in the Louvre for all the world to admire. I want to go to the French countryside to work on my painting.”

The genie says, “Your wish is granted!” and poof! The art director is gone.

The genie then turns to the account executive and says, “And what is your wish?”

The account executive says, “I want those two wasters back here right now!”

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