Driving you mad? Unofficial and irreverent takes on car stickers

Car stickers that represent your household are a huge hit in Australia, and are on sale here. But a slew of spoofs reveal that not everyone’s a family guy, says Gillian Orr

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The Independent Online

We’re all familiar with “Baby on board” signs and various “honk if…” stickers brightening up the roads (or blighting them, depending on your point of view), but the latest way to jazz-up the rear of your car is to display a line of stick figures representing your own family in the back window.

The Sticker Family was launched in Australia in 2009, where it has enjoyed enormous success. The brainchild of Phil Barham and his wife Monica Liebenow, the company now produces more than 200,000 My Family Stickers a month and has launched them in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and South Africa. They were introduced in the UK a couple of years ago, but only now are they only gaining prominence. The collection has everything from yoga mother to fishing father, guitar girl to football boy. There is even a selection of pets – from cats and dogs to guinea pigs and turtles.

“To start with we had no brand recognition in the UK, we had to start it all from scratch,” says Ian King, the head of UK sales for The Sticker Family. “But we’re just suddenly now beginning to get people noticing them.” Although they’re stocked in more than 320 independent retailers around the country (they sell especially well in the South-west) and on the company website, King understands why it may have taken a little longer for British families to succumb to the craze.

“The culture in Australia is quite different to the UK; people don’t generally put stickers all over their car like they do there, or even in America. But people are catching on. It really appeals to children and mothers; then the whole family gets involved.”

And there might even be an economical reason behind their popularity, says Stuart Humphreys, automotive PR manager at Halfords. “This is largely driven by the big market in used cars and people keeping cars for longer but wanting to freshen-up the look,” he observes. The ranges are also customised for each country; Israel offers figures in fatigues for those doing military service, while Norway has four skiing options for each family member.

In Australia, their ubiquity has caused a huge backlash. In the same way that many motorists find “Baby on board” signs irritating, so too have sticker families been responsible for a fair amount of road rage. Now parody stickers are almost as common as the originals, with pregnant teens and pimp fathers (or should that be daddies?) proving popular. You can even buy a sticker that reads “I don’t give a flying f*** who’s in your family” or a clan with nooses around their neck.

Complaints were made against Street FX, the Brisbane company which introduced the hanging family stickers, with some arguing that they might upset those who had lost loved ones to suicide.

Its owner Mark Trueno replied drily that the family stickers could be upsetting for those who no longer have parents or were unable to have children.

It is yet to be seen whether My Family Stickers will be a big hit over here, but you can bet they’ll be every bit as divisive.