What's worse than a terrible tattoo? A terrible tattoo that advertises a company that no longer exists.
A selection of "human billboards," people who once tattooed company logos or names on their bodies for quick cash, were recently featured in a BuzzFeed piece by Jack Stuef titled "Branded For Life."
Skinvertising, as it came to be known, gained popularity in the early 2000s when online casino GoldenPalace.com secured a tattoo on boxer Bernard Hopkins's back. Many advertisers believed they had found a striking, unique medium to promote their brand, a means of "stunt" marketing.
Karolyne Williams is one of the more infamous examples. In 2005, the Utah mother, then Karolyne Smith, sold ad space on her forehead for $10,000 to GoldenPalace.com, a move that netted a lot of press for both Williams and Golden Palace. Williams cited the need to provide for her children as the reason for making the drastic cash grab.
Williams's reasoning was similar to that of Mark Greenlaw, who in 2006 held an auction for tattoo space on his neck. The branding opportunity was won by hosting company Glob@t.
Other marketing entrepreneurs claim to have made upward to $220,000 off tattoo ad sales and are still peddling space on their bodies. One of them is Billy Gibby, who also legally changed his name to Hostgator Dotcom for money. Gibby's blog, last updated in 2009, offered advertising prices for "BillyTheHumanBillboard."
Companies grew tired of the trend by the late 2000s. But for those who took the tattoo plunge, the advertising ink on their own skins has outlasted many of the companies they chose to promote.
Check out some of the subjects of "Branded For Life" below:
Billy Gibby or as he is known now, Hostgator.com. Photo courtesy Stephen Nigl. "Tamargo is not just a walking advertisement. He's a walking advertisement for businesses that no longer exist." -BuzzFeed, "Branded For Life"
Credit: SaveMartha.com "One of [Joe] Tamargo's tattoos is for SaveMartha.com, a site that was dedicated to keeping Martha Stewart out of prison following her indictment for securities fraud. Stewart went to prison. Stewart got out of prison. And yet Tamargo still has a tattoo imploring you to save her." -BuzzFeed, "Branded For Life"
Joe Tamargo's tattoo for Grownupgeek.com
Jim Nelson's tattoo for CI Host. Credit: C I Host "In 2003, the first advertising space of this kind was sold on the back of the head of an Illinois man named Jim Nelson. A Web hosting company then known as CI Host paid $7,000 for the space. Nelson signed a contract stating that he would keep the tattoo for at least five years." -BuzzFeed, "Branded For Life"