It's not subtle, but body advertising is a lucrative way of using your head

Andrew Fischer's offer of his forehead on eBay is the talk of the industry
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The Independent Online

As a first job in advertising, Andrew Fischer's big idea is barely more dignified than spending the day on Oxford Street holding a giant sign saying "Golf Sale: This Way", but at least it offers greater mobility (and the equivalent of a six-figure salary).

By going on eBay to offer his forehead as advertising space, Fischer has earned himself an astonishing $30,100 (£16,085) for a month's work. In return, he will wear a non-permanent logo tattooed above his eyebrows while he works, rests and plays.

The response of would-be advertisers to Fischer's offer has provoked industry commentators into speculation that the human body could become advertising's latest platform.

In his eBay sales pitch, Fischer wrote: "You will be leasing an area about the size of my forehead. Actually it really will be my forehead. As I go around town doing my thing, going to work, movies, hanging out with friends, etc, your domain name will be plastered smack dab on my noggin... Take advantage of this radical advertising campaign and become a part of history!"

The website designer thought of the idea as an extension of people being paid to advertise on their cars in the US and plans to use his earnings to pay for his college course in 3D animation. "This is way more money than I expected to get," he says. "I am also hoping to fund my web design business, but this has opened a lot of options to me and I am hoping to build upon it." He says he has been sent e-mails from people - "many of whom are bald" - who are keen to offer their pates to advertisers. "There are hand models, and now there could be forehead models," says Fischer. "My dad said that he could have made more money than me by auctioning his forehead because he is half bald."

The ruse may have been a lucrative one for Fischer, from Omaha, Nebraska, but in London John Carver, co-founder of Cunning Advertising, pointed out that he had pioneered the notion more than a year ago. In fact he even went to the trouble of trademarking the name "foreheAD" back in 2003.

"Students nowadays come out of college with huge overdrafts. The foreheAD is a way they can make money advertising without actively working; they get paid for hanging out," he says.

Carver has put together a database of students who are prepared to wear transfers on their heads to advertise the likes of Scion, Toyota's youth brand, and FHM magazine. "It's effective," he says. "If one person was sitting in an office with an advert on their head, everyone would notice. It may sound ridiculous, but it's not a crazy idea.

"In 10 years' time, when eating dinner at The Ivy there may well be three or four people sitting on different tables with foreheADs."

Cunning has developed the idea to include "buttvertising" (girls on beaches wearing thongs and FHM logos) and are working with Future Forests and have been talking about a tattoo-style design for people to wear on their hand to show they are carbon neutral.

Hector Proud, director of Idea Generation PR, agrees that body ads have potential. "We briefly considered buying this man's forehead to advertise one of our clients when the bidding was about $150," he says. "It would be good publicity for one of our international brands. Ebay is the car boot sale of the world, and selling the space online has attracted people's attention."

But not everyone is convinced. Jon Forsyth, head of strategy at Naked Communications, thinks body advertising is no more than a fad. "We used this style of advert for the launch of mobile phone network 3, including the logo shaven into heads and arm tattoos, but I don't think this will become a major advertising channel."

Mark Borkowski, of Borkowski PR, is cynical about body advertising. "Ambient media companies have been trying to promote thinking about space differently for two or three years," he said.

"This man advertising his forehead on eBay stinks of a stunt. I put money on it that the guy who put him up to it buys the forehead for ad space, but it opens the floodgates for lazy brands to follow in his wake.

"This is a short, sharp way of generating interest, but people can see through it and that can make them very cynical. Clever advertising is about subtlety, about not seeing the puppet master pulling the strings."