A Brief History of the Human Billboard

Advertising is one of the oldest human institutions. In ancient times advertising happened by word of mouth, or simply by the advertiser yelling at passersby to catch their attention. With the invention of writing and later the printing press, advertisements were transcribed onto stone or paper and put in a place where people could easily see them. This decreased the amount of work the advertiser had to do while increasing the number of people who would see the advertisement. In modern times, we have seen advertisements make their way onto humans themselves; the human billboard.


Human billboards sprang up in London in the early 1800s. Around this time, there was fierce competition for wall space in the city for advertisements. This resulted in a tax for all advertising posters. To avoid the tax and the cutthroat competition to get their posters on a wall and possibly ignored, advertisers began to use human beings as the "wall" on which to put their advertisements. Three foot high hats, the backs of brightly colored jackets and poster boards on the front and back of people (creating a "sandwich" effect) were all used to house the words of the advertisement and catch people's attention. Advertisement posters were banned from private property in London in the mid-1800s, resulting in a huge surge toward human billboards. People walking down the street carrying signs became a staple of every sidewalk.


This can be seen all the time today. New housing developments and pizza joints are always paying people to stand out front, spinning an arrow sign in order to draw attention to the establishment. T-shirts in particular began being used to advertise on humans in the 1930s. Today, almost every company, band, film, television show, etc. has promotional t-shirts for advertising. ooshirts has tons of low priced custom shirts for you to advertise whatever type of business, group or event you are promoting. There is a long history of "human billboard" advertising, and we can help you be on the cutting edge of that as we move further into this millennium.