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July 01, 2013

Merchants Put New Spin on Advertising

by Faiza Elmasry

Horacio Moreno, 25, stands on a street corner in a Washington suburb, with a white and red sign made of heavy cardboard. He twists it behind his back, then tosses it above his head, doing some dance moves before catching it and twirling it again. He has been spinning signs for five years.
 
“There is a lot of money being made in advertising," he says.

The income, however, is not the only reason Moreno loves his job.

“I have the most fun doing what I’m doing," he said. "I don’t have to worry about having a boss, like telling me to do my job better. Every day I have people telling me I’m doing a great job.”

Moreno works for Arrow Advertising. Michael Patterson is president of its Washington D.C. branch. His college roommate started the company after getting a job holding a sign on a street corner, advertising a local business.

“The problem with holding signs is you hate yourself, you hate your life," he said. "It really looks like the worst job in the world. He realized that by moving the sign around a little bit, the movement attracted more attention, more sales and more traffic.”

After graduating, he went home to San Diego, California, and founded Arrow Advertising. The friends stayed in touch.
 
“He came back to Georgetown in 2001 and said, ‘Hey, Patterson, I bet this concept would work on the East Coast also.' We said 'Let’s see what we can do with it,'" Patterson said. "Here we are, 12 years later, we’re in 11 countries and 49 cities, at this point. We’ve hired thousands of sign spinners in the last seven, eight years.”

Sign Spinners promote all sorts of businesses, large and small.

“We’ve advertised for every industry you can think off," Patterson said. "Our bread and butter is primarily the real estate industry.”

One of his clients is an apartment building in Arlington, Virginia.

“What we do is basically leasing and with the sign spinners that helps generate traffic for us,” said manager Vincent Stanton, who hired Arrow Advertising spinners more than a year ago.

To attract attention and traffic, sign spinners need to get noticed, and that requires learning a few tricks, as well as the basics of how to spin a sign, while jumping around and dancing.

Arrow Advertising offers classes to help local high school students master those skills. Most of the students are young men, but not all.

Estefanie Amaya, 16, has been training for seven months.

“Sometimes it’s like, ‘No, the girl can’t spin,' but then I show them and then they are amazed," she said. “My cousins and my brothers, they started doing it around me. So I was interested in it. I wanted to learn. During the summer, I’ll be working on weekdays and on weekends.”

Sign spinning is not as easy as it looks.

“The first couple of months, it could be actually pretty grueling and hard, you get a lot of scars, a lot of bruises, but it’s all part of the game," said Moreno.

There are rules for effective sign spinning.

“If we do it too fast, no one can read the message," Patterson said. "So our guys are actually trained to pause the sign at certain points, to make sure the cars passing by can read the message. We’re not stale advertising. We’re always brand new advertising, everytime you see us, no matter who we are advertising for.”

Being dynamic and innovative, Patterson said, is the secret behind sign spinning as a growing trend in advertising.