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It started a few years ago. The first one I remember seeing was Little Caesars $5 Hot-And-Ready pizzas. I don't know if this was the source, but it was the first symptom...

Guy with a square sign for $5.99 Hot-N-Ready Little Caesars Large Pizza
(source: Sign wavers, beggars the same?)

... And then the plague spread. To every street corner and business in America ...

Great Clips sign waver
(source: revivingworkethic.com)

Are there any legitimate marketing studies or results that show that this technique is actually worth it? Everyone I know who I've ever asked just says basically, "Yeah, I know, I see them. They're amusing and a little annoying." I've never met a single person who was actually affected (or at least, who admitted to being affected) by these human advertisements.

Hence the question: is this actually worth the investment and having this person on payroll? Or is this a useless gesture that companies copy under the guise of "more exposure is better!!!!!!!!!11111" without any actual studies to back up this particular technique?

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    In response to "It started a few years ago": it appears that this practice may be significantly older than that. See urban75.org/london/billboards.html – snailcar Mar 30 '13 at 14:17
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    See also the Wikipedia article about human billboards (altough I like the term sandwich man more!): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_billboard – nico Mar 30 '13 at 14:31
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    Apparently there is some evidence that they are indeed helpful: "A lot of people carry their W-2 in their wallet, and when they see our wavers they pull right in," he says. Chicago franchisee Kalid Baste says he considered wavers "foolish" until heavy losses at his Liberty stores forced him to give them a try. Soon, he says, revenue doubled.” Upstart Tax Preparer Surges to No. 3 Spot Riding 'the Wavers'; Dancing Uncle Sams Lure Customers to Liberty; Dodging a Tossed Hot Dog Wall Street Journal Apr 17, 2006 – LibraryLady Mar 30 '13 at 18:14
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    Isn't that a $6 pizza? – Baarn Mar 30 '13 at 22:09
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    @Informaficker My exact thoughts, but it obviously shows that the 99 cent trick works. – Stefan Apr 2 '13 at 13:47

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