What is Sign Spinning?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Sign spinning is a controversial form of outdoor advertising in which trained employees stand on public street corners and display surfboard-sized cardboard signs. These signs are generally sponsored by local companies in the general vicinity of the sign spinner, but national companies have been known to invest in these services to reach a younger demographic. Spinning the signs involves a combination of acrobatics, baton-tossing and martial arts movements designed to attract the attention of passing motorists.

Sometimes called "human directionals," sign spinners are generally young and eager to take on non-traditional careers. Advertising companies routinely recruit and train interested sign spinners, with professional instructors teaching new employees new moves in a camp setting. Once a recruit has demonstrated a mastery of the basic maneuvers, he or she is provided with a sponsored sign and assigned a location. Sign spinning beginners could earn $10 to $20 US Dollars (USD) per hour, but more skilled spinners or instructors sometimes earn up to $60 USD an hour.

Some say sign spinning is an ideal way to gain much needed attention from passing motorists, since a static sign eventually loses its appeal over time. A good spinner can attract a crowd of pedestrians with his or her stunts, generating word of mouth advertising and interest in the product or company name. The technique also returns a personal element to the world of advertising, since a real person is providing entertainment along with the sales pitch.


Others say the practice should not be seen as a viable form of advertising. The signs and the stunts can easily cause drivers to become distracted, and the spinners themselves may be in danger of being struck by cars. While spinning may attract some attention, the message may not be registering with potential customers as well as advertisers may hope. If the sign spinners do not allow enough time for passers-by to read the copy, then the exercise may be pointless. Some cities have already passed legislation banning it on public streets.

There is also a safety concern with sign spinning, since many advertising companies often compete for the same popular street corners. Some spinners have been assaulted or harassed by rivals seeking exclusive rights to a particularly good location. Passing motorists may also express their disinterest by throwing food or shouting obscenities at the spinners themselves. It can be a hazardous profession, and some smaller advertising agencies have been known not to pay their employees for their services. As with other types of guerrilla advertising techniques, it pays for a potential employee to know who he or she is dealing with before taking on a sign spinning assignment.


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Post 18

Sign spinning is a scam and a waste of money for the company as an advertising tool. As a fitness trainer, I would not encourage anyone to crane their neck backward and spin something over their head. I can think of numerous injuries that can result from this ridiculous practice. The worst is that you lose your balance easily with your head back, and will fall into the traffic or the street. The sign can fall on your face, causing facial disfiguration, since velocity is also involved.

No one can see the words on the sign when it is spinning and hundreds of potential customers in passing cars are lost. It is purely entertainment and a big waste of your advertising dollars. Many of the spinners are freaky looking, which will also detract from the overall image. Who started this nonsense?

Post 17

I live in an area that gets very windy. I've seen the sign spinners sometimes lose control of the sign because of the wind. Once I thought the sign was going to go flying straight into the face of a passing pedestrian. Thank God it didn't that time.

Post 16

I feel sorry for the people who can't find a better job, but I respect them for choosing this over being unemployed and drawing a welfare check.

Post 13

4 mil coroplast is used for spinners and I agree with the standard size. I have been a visual communication specialist for over 15 years. -K. Jacobs

Post 10

yes I can confirm that as well- 2' x 6' in a custom arrow cut is the "standard" size. I also had great success with the signs and service through Lighthouse Advertising Group.

Post 9

Yes- there are typically 2' x 6'. It is best if they are digitally printed on a 10mil coroplast like the Lighthouse Advertising Group does them and some other companies as well.

Post 7

Are there standard dimensions for these signs?

Post 6

There are some special plastics that are thick and light and perfect for the signs. One company I found that does a tremendous job with both the signs and the sign spinner staffing is Lighthouse Advertising.

Post 5

Can anyone email me with how they make the signs? I am in Australia and nobody does it here! I just cannot get it right!

Post 4

wayne, how are the signs built so they have weights around the corners or hard plastic and tape. i can't seem to get my sign to move like their's. my board is too flimsy. also if you have the dimensions i would appreciate it.-terry

Post 3

Wow, how many points do you earn for hitting a sign spinner? That's GOTTA be worth more than running over a baby carriage!!!

Post 2

NC Taking over the number one spot in 08' Holla!


Post 1

Good article. I would like to add a couple of points. The signs are not actually cardboard but made of coroplast, it's the same material of the signs used to promote politicians running for office. Ref the $60 per hour. That is very rare. In fact there is only one guy in the world that I know of that earns that much and that's Randy J out of L.A. He's so good Snoop Dogg hired him to promote one of his events. Anyway, if there are any other spinners out there, bumper sticker reads Sign Spinners do it with Coroplast Signs. Give me a beep if you see me in OC.

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