Rent-a-Face

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Rent-a-Face

February 25, 2003


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It has finally happened. Advertising has come to the human body. An advertising agency in London is actually paying university students 88 pounds a week to wear temporary tattoos of corporate logos on their foreheads. That works out to about seven dollars an hour for every hour they're in public, and amazingly many students are eager to join up.

When I first heard this, I figured it had to be a hoax. Who would wear an ad on their forehead? But then I was reminded that I actually predicted this in 1999. Back then, I suggested in a column that tattooed advertising would soon become a new fad. Of course, I was joking, but that hardly matters these days when satire and real life are merging at breakneck speeds.

Besides, corporate logos are everywhere these days. People walk around wearing logos on their clothes. Boxers wear temporary ads on their backs during fights. And you can even make a few hundred dollars a month wrapping your car in advertisements. Why shouldn't face rental be next?

The tattoos will last about a week, as long as students don't touch them (i.e. no washing). Students are paid to be "out and about" for at least three hours a day so that the logo can be seen. And no hiding in the library either with your logo buried in a book. Students must provide photographic evidence showing them in shopping areas and pubs with the tattoo visible.

This is so utterly ridiculous that it raises countless questions. If all your friends are losers, do you get less money? What happens if you show up at a party wearing the same logo as someone else? Will it really enhance a brand to have a logo worn by college students who can't wash their foreheads for a week? And what other body parts will we be able to rent out in the future? Any guesses on what a thigh might go for?

This is all the work of a company called Cunning Stunts, which bills itself as a "guerilla advertising agency." They are best known for projecting a partly naked image of actress Gail Porter on the House of Parliament as a stunt for the English men's magazine FHM. In another stunt to promote FHM's "100 sexiest" issue, they even attempted to project an image of Jennifer Lopez's ass onto the moon. Feel free to insert your own joke here.

As for the students, they don't seem outraged at all. Oli Merrel, a student at Falmouth College of Arts, in Cornwall, told The Guardian, "I don't see the difference between an advert on a billboard and one on my forehead - except I'll be earning money from it." That's spoken like a true capitalist, isn't it?

And Rufus Curnow, a participant from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, told The Independent, "I think there are also a lot of lazy students who would look at this as a way of earning 100 pounds a week for doing nothing."

I suppose they have a point. It doesn't really hurt anyone, and, when compared with working at McDonald's for minimum wage, wearing a logo on one's forehead may only seem slightly demeaning. Who knows? I might even consider selling space on my forehead, except that my price would be a lot higher than seven dollars an hour.

Then again, who am I kidding? Why would they want my forehead? I'm 31 after all, probably no longer in the age group they are catering to. "I'm sorry, Mr. Lavin, we're really trying to reach women aged 18 to 24, and our research shows quite clearly that you're just not reaching that demographic any more."

"Well, what if I leave my apartment? Would that help?"

And, while this program may help reduce student debt, I doubt it will help grades. I would love to see the expression of the first professor who has to call on a student wearing a logo on his face. Then again, if this catches on, professors will no longer have to remember names, so maybe they will like it.

"From the reading, can anyone describe the elements of dynamic optimization as it pertains to macroeconomic theory? Schlitz? Jiffy Lube? Hooters? Anyone?"

So far, many companies have signed up for the program, including FHM. I don't blame them either. In fact, I recently e-mailed Cunning Stunts to see just how much it would cost to put my web address (www.joelavin.com) on somebody's forehead for a week. Somehow, I love the idea of complete strangers walking around London with my name on their heads, but I don't think it will be happening any time soon. Not surprisingly, the company has yet to reply.



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