Advertising's Next Big Idea: Sign Spinners!

Why settle for a boring kid on the corner simply holding a sign, when you can hire a sign spinner? Lower-end West Coast marketing operations are paying up to $60/hour to put young folks on corners and spin arrow-shaped advertising signs like baton twirlers.

They spin the signs on their hands, around the back, under the legs, flip em’ over the head, and so forth. Everyone once in a while they stop the sign so its message can actually be read.

Most cities strictly limit the placement of fixed so signs, so car dealerships and real estate brokers have gotten around this by hiring people to hold the sign. The natural evolution is for the signs to be spun, thus fulfilling advertising’s mandate to be as obtrusive and annoying as possible.

Now if they could mix in some krunking, then we’d be really impressed. — BEN POPKEN

More YouTube videos:
Sign Spinner
Streetcorner sign spinning
sign spinning commedy
The Sign Spinner – Part 1


Edit Your Comment

  1. Yankees368 says:

    Um, if he is spinning the sign all around… how am I going to be able to READ the sign, none the less figure out which direction the stupid thing is pointing!

  2. Everyday I see one of these guys spinning a sign for the Healthy Back store in Tysons..

    Everyday I continue not buying things from said store

  3. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    I read the article & it shows that the Patent & Trademark Office may be the most dysfunctional bureaucracy in Washington.
    That they will patent or trademark the spins these guys do is total idiocy

  4. bossco says:

    I am was waiting for the kid to loose control and have the sign go flying into traffic, thus causing an accident,then the calling of lawyers, then the filing of lawsuits, thus ending the short lived “next big idea” of sign spinning.

  5. FishingCrue says:

    It must suck to have a job that can effectively be done by a piece of pipe or a wooden stake in the ground.

  6. cgmaetc says:

    60 bucks and hour! That’s $480 a day… more than I made as a teacher!

    Just goes to show you the value of a good education these days…

  7. joemono says:

    “You know, I hadn’t planned on buying a new mattress, but that man on the corner flipping his sign around like a complete tool convinced me otherwise.”

  8. jamesdenver says:

    Good – let them spin. So long as they’re taking their tacky wares home at the end of the night.

    Nothing annoys me more than coroplast “bandit signs” tacked all over telephone poles and posted on corners.

    Myself and my neigbhors remove all this shit every weekend from my neighborhood and wish more folks would do the same. It’s trash, litter, and makes your corner look like a 2 bit flea market.

    Like this company:

    Support your twirlers. They won’t litter.

  9. silenuswise says:

    Okay, can anyone link me to any documented evidence that humans holding signs–spinning or otherwise–is a successful form of advertising? I’ll admit complete ignorance regarding the “science” of advertising and marketing in general, so I’m sincerely curious to know if some corporate-funded study showed that these human advertisements draw higher revenue than inanimate signage.

    I understand the eye-catching quality, but does this help or hinder brand development? For all of the human signs I’ve seen while driving down the road, I can’t consciously recall a single business they represented. Furthermore, my gut reaction is always one of embarrassment, so I don’t think the “catchy jingle” ad technique of burrowing into my subconscious is working for them, either, if it’s ultimately tapping into a flee/avoidance response in my lizard brain.

  10. DeeJayQueue says:

    I got suckered into doing that once for my ex. Is it humiliating standing on the side of the road flipping a goofy big plastic sign around? Yup. Even moreso when the wind catches the sign and blows it into traffic? Uh-Huh. Waste of advertising dollars? Definately.

    The redeeming factor of that whole day, and the reason I haven’t repressed it into my subconscious already was when the giant blimp we had also inflated decided to catch wind and knock over some power lines. Fun fun.

  11. traezer says:

    There are a lot of these sign people in San Jose. I havnt seen any “spinners” yet, but Ive seen “dancers”, “jumpers” and “wave sign obnoxiously arounders”. Most of the time they are wearing head phones and look bored out of their minds. But hey, its free entertainment when youre stuck at a red light.

  12. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Um… “krumping,” I think.

  13. Rider says:

    We have them here in Orlando also.

  14. Indecision says:

    @jamesdenver: “Nothing annoys me more than coroplast “bandit signs” tacked all over telephone poles and posted on corners. Myself and my neigbhors remove all this shit every weekend from my neighborhood…”

    Someone in my old neighborhood would go around and tear off just the phone number and contact info from those signs. I liked it because it sends a very clear message. Your sign did not fall down. The utility/police didn’t remove it. So what happened to it? I hate you, that’s what happened.

  15. mantari says:

    Its all just fun and games until one of them slips loose and hits a car in traffic.

  16. humorbot says:

    Well silenuswise, this is close:

    These guys have a been a fixture on LA street-corners for a few years now, where they (supposedly) got their start. Frankly it’s not as exciting as either article makes it sound. There is the occasional spinner who seems to lack passion for the job and let his sign repeatedly fall into traffic…

    Oh, and this “spinning” is nothing like baton twirling. There is competitive baton twirling. It’s an… exclusive club, but a talented one.

  17. homerjay says:

    Nuevos Condos!

    That job didn’t pan out too well for Kirk Van Houten.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    As a denizen of Cali, I can report that, while the Olympic-level spinners get the press, adoration (or hurled beer cans) and attention, they’re a tiny minority. Indeed I’ve never seen any spinners that aren’t standing in place, waving the sign every so often, in between cigarette breaks and leering at underage teenagers whizzing by in cars.

    The advertisers are always condos or car lots. Low rent. No glamor.

    About the only excitement that happens when I’m around spinners is watching them run for their lives when I aim my car at them. It’s not homicidal – I’m providing artistic inspiration!

  19. Nytmare says:

    Animated signs — makes me glad I live in one of the more mediocre cities. I wonder if trespassing or loitering laws could be applied to get rid of them.

    Furniture stores are the ones who hire corner guys around here; why do they, and only them, all use the exact same advertising tactics for their “going out of business” sales? They must all subscribe to the same newsletter that sets out this ridiculous furniture advertising strategy.

    Something I caught this weekend was a pickup truck owned by an ad agency long-term parked in the corner of someone’s lot, and it had a giant billboard frame welded to the bed. This thing was wholly designed to skirt the sign laws. The billboard happened to be running a We Buy Houses ad, same as those bandit signs.

  20. MadMolecule says:

    This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    Sign slips out of sign-spinner’s sweaty hand; sign hits car, denting it or breaking a window or causing an accident; driver sues kid’s employer under agency theory; driver wins and court tells everyone to knock it off with the sign-spinning already.

    And finally, the state legislature has to pass a law telling everyone, once again, not to do something that any idiot should have known better than to do in the first place.

  21. lilyHaze says:

    I think I saw that same sign at Tyson’s Corner. It certainly was amusing and made me pay attention. But if I can’t read the stupid sign, then what’s the point?

    I never thought that this was an accident/lawsuit waiting to happen. The sign slips out of his/her hand, hits car(s), and causes major accident. Thereby delaying my commute even MORE!

  22. ShadeWalker says:

    @homerjay: i was totally thinking about that episode. he was pretty good at it too.

  23. Finally! A use for my rusty high-school marching band flag-spinning skills!

  24. ArntorFTL says:

    Annoying. It’s just like those idiotic ads that flash, blink and have characters that move around inside of it. Advertisers somehow think that getting your attention by being as annoying as possible is somehow the way to get you to buy their product/service. I can’t wait until this fad is over.

  25. @Jerkwheat: They are all over Rockville Pike, too. Mainly for new condo buildings, but also for furniture stores, healthy back stores, etc.

  26. jwissick says:

    You really have to be at the bottom of the heap when you decide to take a job holding a sign… Christ. If I ever get that hard up, just fucking shoot me.

    Even Jiffy Looob is getting in on the act. When their goofs are not victimizing an inocent car, they make their doofuses stand out on the street with a sign. I always point and laugh when I see them.

    We even have one guy who hangs a sign on his reclining bike and rides around the intersection real slow in the cross walk.

    Sure beats the guy who used to sit up a ladder at the intersection and preach from the bible at red lights. I made sure to blast Cradle of Filth or Black Sabbath on my radio when I pulled up next to him.

  27. Tango says:

    @ ArntorFTL
    Sadly, some studies show that the annoying ads can be more effective, if only because we all remember the names of the ones we hate. Links to those studies elude me, at the moment.

  28. Kifune says:

    Right after college, I applied for and got the job to be a sign person (they had some catchy name I can’t recall). I was supposed to wear all white clothes and wave around a big red arrow that pointed traffic towards some new bland suburban track in Orange Count. Fortunately, I managed to find whatever shred of dignity I had seemingly lost when I applied for the job and just didn’t show up the first day. I do remember, though, that the pay was going to be pretty damn good.

  29. DCKiwi says:


    Advertisers somehow think that getting your attention by being as annoying as possible is somehow the way to get you to buy their product/service.

    “ActiveOn, apply directly to the forehead! ActiveOn, apply directly to the forehead!”

  30. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve not seen any of the acrobatic sign holders around here, but a ton of the apartment->condo conversion places pay drunks to stand out there with their signs.

    If someone’s paying $60/hr for this crap, THEY are the ones who need to find a new job, not the sign spinner. Paying a drunk a couple of 6-packs at the end of his shift is infinitely cheaper and more effective.

  31. spanky says:

    jamesdenver & Indecision:

    I shark bandit signs, too. I used to remove them entirely, but I started cutting out the number and URL to serve as a warning to the people who put them up, and a reminder to everyone else that they were there. I used to put a lot of time and effort into taking those things down, but if I was too good at it, nobody else gave a shit because they never saw them.

    Some of those guys have apparently started putting razor blades in the Coroplast so you’ll get sliced taking their signs down, so be careful.

  32. alicetheowl says:

    I can’t see these taking off where I’m living now. As it is, there was this big fight recently over whether a guy could stand outside a chicken restaurant wearing a chicken suit. First the city said he was violating the sign ordinances, then they changed their mind, then the company had to let him go, anyway, for some reason which escapes me.

    Apparently he had quite a loyal following of people who wanted him to stay. I didn’t ask any of them if they ate at the chicken place.

  33. CapnMarrrrk says:

    I so can’t wait to “accidentally” crash my car checking one of these dildoes out. I wonder if I can make somebody pay?

  34. animeredith says:

    I’ve been seeing this for a couple of years now, mostly from the new condo complex that was trying to sell units next to my old place of work. So this is far from a new trend, though I have noticed it seems to be more widespread now. It’s always some 16 year old kids, probably because they’re the only ones who actually WANT a job like that. I actually just thought it was some little douchebags screwing around with some company’s signs for fun at first. Not a great business tactic.

  35. Indecision says:

    @Tango: “Sadly, some studies show that the annoying ads can be more effective, if only because we all remember the names of the ones we hate.”

    Depends on your definition of “effective,” I suppose. For example, I remember GNC’s ads because they use an alarm clock noise. So yeah, it was effective in getting me to remember “GNC.” But I remember that I *hate* GNC, so I buy supplements from Vitamin Shoppe.

    Still “effective”?

  36. legotech says:

    I watch these guys at Pico and LaCienega in LA a couple of days a week when the local auto “auction” place is running its scam. The guys are really fun to watch as they are the ones that actually spin the signs and not just stand there wondering when they can get their next fix/smoke/drink.

    There’s actually an article in the LA Times today about these guys auditioning at some park in LA.

    Hey, if they can pull down that kind of cash, more power to em, I just graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and I can make $8.50 an hour as a line cook.


  37. etinterrapax says:

    What really amuses me is that the next step up is a mechanized spinning sign, and then we’ll be right back to the late seventies in my hometown, when every gas station had a twirling sign out front.

  38. shdwsclan says:

    It mainly attracts mac users.
    Mac users like shiny and sparkly things.
    Sign spinners offer such shiny and sparkly things.
    Mac users will stop to read the sign and probably buy the product not knowing what the hell it is or how to use it…
    Kinda like going to the apple store…..

    But they are only appealing to 5% of the market which equals mac users.

    If they wanna maintain to the other 95%, they should get a plain guy, just holding the sign so people can actually read it and decide if they need it..

  39. shdwsclan says:

    @legotech……8.50, thats terrible…..a cashier at costco makes $10 an hour, and no Le Cordon Bleu needed, hell, no highschool needed….

    A programmer like me makes minimum $25 an hour…..

    But damn…$60 an hour….damn….I wanted to make that much in highschool…instead i was making on avg 7.50 per hour + market basket comission per hour +ppp commission per transaction in a sales position in the tech department in a retail outlet….

    But hey….thats capitalism for ya……
    Communism had a good idea that skilled and educated people were paid more versus uneducated labor….or something like that…..but it was still nearly nothing….in comparison to western wages for the same job at the same time, for doing the same thing…

    In communism….you got like $55 a month as a lab technician or something….yes…a month….In the USA, you would be getting like 30-40 a month at that time….with inflation…it probably comes out to 60-70 a month….

  40. We have them here in Denver too.

    I say, just give the signs to panhandlers and make them spin ’em.

    It’s a win/win for everyone.

  41. ZeroXero says:

    just to let you guys know they get payed 10-13 dollars an hour. not 60 like some liar commentor above

  42. cynu414 says:

    I live in San Diego and it seems like they are on every corner. Most of the signs are for new condos, which are springing up like wildflowers, but when they spin at an intersection who knows where the condos are.

  43. Roosh says:

    We’ve had this on Rockville Pike in Rockville, MD for at least a year now. They usually hire young kids who keep dropping the signs mid-spin.

  44. Smashville says:

    “Advertising’s Next Big Idea”…yeah…in like 1930…

  45. Rajio says:

    what will they think of next? selling bread pre-sliced?!

  46. glitterpig says:

    Man, y’all have no sense of humor. Or really crappy sign-spinners. Rockville Pike you’ll see a lot, but it’s always been a weird hub of roadside advertising. (Remember the bull? That made the news as far as Toronto.) There’s one spinner who works for a condo development in Alexandria who’s elevated the form to an art. Seriously fun stuff to watch. Could I name the development, or would it make me check it out if I were in the market for a condo? No, and no. But I don’t care – I’m always up for street theater, and I’d rather see one of those than the boring sandwich boards that everyone else uses.

  47. Craig says:

    I also live in San Diego where spinners have been doing this for years. There used to be fewer of them and they kept getting better and better but lately most of them aren’t that good…I’d rate the guy in the video a 5/10 compared to what I’ve seen. (Especially since he never freezes the sign to let people read it.)

  48. animeredith says:


    Exactly the place I’m talking about! I have to watch them for at least 3 minutes every time I’m in Rockville, as I’m usually U-turning at the intersection they frequent. I’m pretty sure all the units in the new condo are all sold now though, and I haven’t seen the sign-spinning/dropping teenagers in awhile.

  49. spinner4eva says:

    gees, i bet everyone here thought the same about TV commercials.

    think about it….when those businesses (condo sales centers) get someone to walk in, the sales rep will ask “how did you hear about us?”

    what do you think the #1 response is?

  50. Anonymous says:

    For all of you that haven’t seen the real thing, let me address all of your concerns.
    1. They don’t spin it the whole time. Just to get your attention. Then they interact with you like a human being, let’s see another form of advertising do that.
    2. The young people that do the job love it. They bring their ipods and have turned sign spinning into an extreme sport that makes baton twirling look simple.
    3. Advertisers love sign spinners because it is flexible enough to be placed in front of their location any time they want.
    4. All businesses have risks. I don’t think a sign spinner is as dangerous as the millions of people that talk on their cell and text while they drive. Should we disallow bikers from sharing the road because its only a matter of time before one of them slips and causes an accident?
    5. If you have any other q’s, check out the professionals. These guys are the real deal.