A human billboard is someone who applies an advertisement on his or her person. Most commonly, this means holding or wearing a sign of some sort, but also may include wearing advertising as clothing or in extreme cases, having advertising tattooed on the body. Sign holders are known as human directionals in the advertising industry, or colloquially as sign walkers, sign wavers, sign twirlers or (in British territories) sandwich men. Frequently, they will spin or dance or wear costumes with the promotional sign in order to attract attention.
Human billboards have been used for centuries. In 19th century London, the practice began when advertising posters became subject to a tax and competition for wall space became fierce. Prince Pückler-Muskau described the activity in 1820s London as such:
|“||Formerly people were content to paste advertisements up; now they are ambulant. One man had a pasteboard hat, three times as high as other hats, on which is written in great letters, ‘Boots at twelve shillings a pair – warranted’.||”|