'Spin' Advertising

Sign spinners turn a traditional advertising technique into an extreme sport.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 8:15 PM

July 5, 2007 — -- In the highly competitive and technical world of advertising, a group of San Diego high school friends have found a way to mix freestyle street sports with promotions to provide a unique and entertaining street corner advertisement.

They call it sign spinning — as they stand on street corners with a sign to advertise a business, they toss, twirl and maneuver the cardboard like a baton to entertain and catch the eye of people who walk or drive by their performance.

Watch Brian Rooney's report tonight on "World News with Charles Gibson."

Its creators learned on the job that people pay more attention when you put a little spin on the message. Now just out of college, they expect that their company, Aarrow Advertising, will bill $4 million in 2007.

"The problem with traditional advertising is that it gets boring once you've seen the same commercial twice, or the same billboard twice. But to be honest, you're never going to see a sign spinner doing the exact same thing twice," Aarrow Advertising co-owner Mike Kenny told ABC's Brian Rooney.

And the style is catching on, according to Kenny, who is making an impact in the advertising world.

"Big companies are starting to put us into their advertising budgets now. 'I'm going to spend this much on radio, this much on billboards, this much on sign spinning,'" he said.

Among sign holders sometimes derided as "human directionals" in the street, Aarrow's spinners stand out. They are the product of hard training with weekly boot camps to get employees in shape and give them the opportunity to learn learn new tricks.

They have devised at least 350 tricks and the spinners get paid more as they learn more.

"The starting salary is $10 an hour and you get a raise, a little raise for every trick that you learn," Kenny said. "Sign spinners make up to about [$30,000 to] $40,000 a year. If you're a spin structor you can make about [$40,000] to [$70,000]."

To gauge its success, this 5-year-old company has two forms of appreciation for the sign spinners, including the impact they make for their clients.

"We really measure how it works through our clients' response. Our clients will tell us at the end of the day, 'Hey, our traffic count was 15 people from you guys today,'" Kenny said.

But they also get more informal praises right out on the street. "I love it when I come out here and everyone waves," said spinner Dave Lemke who works in Los Angeles. "I get constant feedback. Honks, waves, girls hanging out the car. … Every day I come out here and try and learn a new trick and step it up to the next level."

Some cities have already decided this is spinning out of control. They've banned sign spinning, saying it distracts drivers and may cause accidents.

For now, though, sign spinners continue to work street corners across the country. Aarrow Advertising touts on its Web site that it is insured to work in San Diego; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas; Sacramento, Calif.; Phoenix; Raleigh and Durham, N.C.; and South Florida.

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