Was it a social experiment on social media? A hyper-local return to the roots of marketing? Or, was it all that, a bag of chips and a shameless stab at self-promotion?
Marketing firm Alternative Strategies sent a scantily clad woman and man to the street outside their new Banker’s Hill office near downtown San Diego, covered by little more than an old-fashioned sandwich board promoting the company’s current “Get Exposed” campaign. A model named Jennifer wore a multi-colored bikini and high heels; Matt wore an orange necktie, basketball shorts and black shoes and socks.
“Sandwich boards were the original form of social media,” says David Moye, a spokesperson for Alternative Strategies. He says the sandwich boards make the point that Internet sites like Facebook and Twitter are not the be-all, end-all ways of reaching out to the public.
“Back in the day, a guy walked around with a sandwich board that said “Eat at Joe’s—what could have been more hyper-local than that?” asks Moye. “People ask that guy if Joe has good food and he says, ‘Well, yeah.’ What’s more interactive than that?”
Moye says sandwich boards equate to a Web 2.0 version of pre-Internet marketing. Hmmm, I wondered aloud, where would sign spinners—those sometimes hyper guys on the streets paid to get attention for companies by wildly gesticulating the signs—fall into that metaphoric scenario?
“Sign spinners are like those site that have so many bells and whistles you can’t find what the product is,” says Moye. “Sign spinners are like [slow-loading] flash sites.”
I watched for about 20 minutes as the same set of cars suspiciously circled the block and honked at Jennifer and Matt. An NBC news team filmed the spectacle. A skateboarder appeared to take a fancy to Jennifer. A woman on a cell phone walked wide to the right of Matt as she passed on the sidewalk.
Mildly pressed, Moye admitted he was trying to get media coverage from sandwich boards partly as a dare. “But that doesn’t mean that if everyone is Twittering and Facebooking that it’s the right strategy for you,” he says. “If your business is hyper-local, a sandwich board worn by a scantily-clad model might just be your best way to get exposed."
Hey wait, that’s the company’s new PR campaign tagline…
Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com and a contributing editor to sandiego.com. His Web site (sandiegoDTOWN.com) is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.