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  • Pierre Smith Khanna

The Human Billboard


As you take your seat on the tube for your morning commute, you find yourself distracted by a flashing light. Glancing up from your paper, you are greeted by a video of Miley Cyrus's latest show at the Grammies and the words "Get 20% off the album now!". The man sitting across you is wearing an iPad on his chest, streaming advert after advert. You look at him and he smiles back, then checks his watch to make sure he isn't late for work.

Part time billboard.

£20 a day.

Not a bad deal if you ask me. Nor is this science fiction. I happened to witness it, yesterday. I had the pleasure to meet Adrian Brown who was wearing this iPad paraphernalia while on Jubilee line, on my way to work. Staring at the screen on his chest, which had revolving logos and graphics effectively advertising his advertising, I wasn't quite sure what to think. "May I take a picture?" I ask. He smiles and gives me a nod. "Free advertising" he must have thought. "Is this your business?" "Yes" he replies: "I was just waiting for the patent to come through, now we're fully operational" he says with pride.

Imagine that! Patenting the idea to stick an iPad on your chest. The guy who 'invented' the analogue version of the human billboard ("a piece of human flesh between two slices of paste board" as Charles Dickens put it) must be furious. You gotta keep with the spirit of the times I guess. Our times being characterised by the proliferation of technology amidst a recession, Mr. Brown has harnessed the two with his ingenious invention!

"It's not just the tube you know" he tells me, "in shopping centres, at promotional events, festivals..." As his strap-line goes: Now you can really sell anywhere with Media Pouch™. Does this mean we can expect to see scenes like yesterday's on a daily basis? If Adrian Brown has his way, the answer is an emphatic "yes". Given the limited nature of advertising space in public places, should this take off, you would expect it to lower advertising prices, in turn helping companies bombard us with their logos, slogans and offers with no respite in sight. If only we could take a page out of São Paulo Mayor Gilberto Kassab's book and ban advertising from public view altogether. Now there's an ingenious idea.

Trailer below for those who agree.

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© 2020 by Pierre Smith Khanna