In the early 2000s, there was more than one dot-com bubble that burst. A trend around that time saw people selling advertising real estate in the strangest of places – their bodies. Because the idea of a tattoo as a brand was a bit outlandish, dot-com startups, desperate to be cool and be seen, were the biggest buyers of these human billboards.
After the media got tired of tattoo ad stories, the practice fizzled – but recent years have seen a resurgence in consumers allowing themselves to become billboards for perks or money. For the walking advertisements, the initial prize may seem worth the cost of carrying a brand's logo for life, will the tattoo recipients feel the same in a few years? These five in particular might not.
Nikkole Paulun – a teenage mother featured on MTV’s hit show “16 and Pregnant” – recently sent a tweet flaunting her new tattoo. While this isn't necessarily out of the ordinary for a young woman to do these days, Paulun’s tattoo wasn’t a heart or a butterfly – it was the logo of Electrik Beach, a Monroe, MI, tanning salon.
As part of a marketing stunt, Electrik Beach was offering free tattoos of its logo in exchange for a lifetime of free tanning. The irony to anyone who understands skin care is that tanning is one of the worst things anyone can do for their tattoos.
Double down, a gambling term for betting double on one blackjack card, has many meanings in this tale of a fast food fling. A Kentucky man recently decided to take his love of KFC’s “Double Down” sandwich to the next level with a calf tattoo.
The man – anonymous by name, but his face and real voice appear – can be seen getting the ink at Louisville's Tattoo Salvation in one of the chain's commercials. He got the idea while getting the sandwich on a date with his girlfriend. It’s unclear whether this stunt was KFC’s idea or if Mr. Double Down received any incentive for the stunt, but the nation's best-known purveyor of fried chicken is certainly associating itself with the stunt on YouTube and social media. The sandwich may only be available for a limited time, but that tattoo is forever.
We've heard of being owned by your job, but this takes the cake. New York real estate firm Rapid Realty offered an unusual incentive program to its employees – a 15% pay increase to any employee brave enough to get the company's logo tattooed on his or her body. There were no size or location restrictions for the perk, so a whooping 40 employees decided to go under the needle for a raise.
The idea stemmed from one employee who made the workplace commitment voluntarily, and now dozens of other employees have more incentive than a pay increase to stay with the firm. Of course, considering that the average person will hold more than 11 jobs by the time they're 46, a fair share of these employees will eventually bear the mark of their former employer.
Online casinos and gambling sites are prohibited by law from advertising, so GoldenPalace.com had to seek nontraditional ways of getting some media exposure. One such route involved paying people to get tattoos – and needless to say, the stunt quickly gained the site the attention it wanted. Its logo is now tattooed on as many as 100 people.
The most famous of these tattoos was Utah mom Karolyne Smith, who agreed to get “GoldenPalace.com” tattooed on her forehead for $10,000 that she used to help send her son to private school. Of the many dot-com era companies engaging in this practice, Golden Palace is one of the few that still exist. Smith maybe should have asked for a bit more money, though – it was recently reported that she had to move into her father’s basement.
Another victim of the dot-com bust – and of, well, time – was the website SaveMartha.com. The site was put up to petition for businesswoman and TV personality Martha Stewart to be pardoned from insider trading charges. Fast-forward several years and Stewart has served time for the crime and been a free woman for several years now. Many would say that this site would be short-lived just by its nature, but that didn’t stop it from buying skin space on eBay.
Joe Tamargo sold most of the space on his forearms to various brands. Many of them, like SaveMartha.com, failed after the dot-com bust. But in the nature of tattoos, Tamargo is still sporting the relics of yesteryear on his arms.