Dear Advertisers: Putting Mannequins On Top Of Billboards Is A Bad Idea

Some drivers on I-75 in Ohio thought this mannequin was an actual human being. (WLT-TV)

Some drivers on I-75 in Ohio thought this mannequin was an actual human being. (WLT-TV)

Following decades of near-constant exposure to billboards, American highway drivers have become so inured to the messages that most of these mammoth ads carry, which is why we understand that some advertisers need to come up with creative ways to draw attention to their billboards. But here’s one clever way that should never have happened in the first place: Perching a mannequin on top of one of these roadside signs.

Just ask police in the Cincinnati area, who say they receive dozens of 9-1-1 calls every week from concerned drivers who believe they have seen a young man sitting on the top of a billboard for a local BMW dealer.

The dealership tells WLT-TV that it has decided to pull down the mannequin now that it is aware of the 9-1-1 calls, but this isn’t the first time that someone has caused problems by placing a lifelike mannequin on a billboard.

In 2009, a DUI-awareness billboard in Utah featured a mannequin dressed up as a Highway Patrol officer, at least until pranksters stripped the faux officer bare.

Then in 2012, protesters hung mannequins from a pair of billboards in Las Vegas, causing drivers to call the police because they were concerned they were actual humans swinging from the signs.

So in short, putting a mannequin on your billboard (whether legally or not) is a good way to draw attention to the sign — it just might not be the kind of attention you want.

Thanks to RG for the tip!