Thursday, 19 March 2009

Living Signs

How they advertise in New York and Chicago

There seems to be no limit to the ingenious schemes of the Yankee business man to advertise his wares, and the countryman or foreigner who happens to walk along Broadway, New York, or State Street, Chicago, any one of these days finds himself ejaculating, "Well, I wonder what they'll be doing next!" Whilst there appears to be no drop in the number of whole page advertisements in the monthly magazines and daily newspapers, and while there is scarcely a historic spot or famous haunt on earth without its immense signboard about somebody's pills or anybody's soap, the advertising people pay huge sums of money for still newer methods for a "business-fetching ad.," while keeping up their unstinted usage of the old mediums. The latest of these newer schemes is the"living sign."

Described generally, the "living sign" is a person who, while walking about the streets like an ordinary citizen, does something unusual to attract the attention of a large crowd, and then suddenly pulls out a banner containing an announcement that Smith's cigars are the best on earth. Of course everybody laughs at being "taken in" so cleverly. While, on the face of it, one would think that making a fool of a man is a bad way to to try to win his patronage, the living sign has the desired effect, for the striking scene is sure to induce the spectators to tell their friends all about it when they reach their office or their homes.

A few months before this was written, the living sign was practically unknown - unless one includes the time-out-of-mind "sandwich men." To-day, however, nearly every large soap-making firm, patent medicine manufacturer, or cigar maker of New York has one or more living signs constantly parading the streets, and there is scarcely any line of business in which at least one firm has not put forward its living advertisement.
The Royal Magazine, January, 1900

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