PORT ST. LUCIE — Katie Hansman is a roadside distraction.
Two or three days a week, she dons a Statue of Liberty costume and holds a sign advertising Liberty taxes to traffic whizzing along U.S. 1.
“I often do the electric slide and wave to the oncoming cars,” Hansman said.
Holding a sign on a curb seems simple enough, but some practitioners actually are trained in this advertising art, which has become more prominent on the Treasure Coast in the past seven months.
Eric Cokrlic, manager of AArrow Advertising in Boca Raton, operates a business that trains employees on different tricks and techniques: how to flip, spin and drop signs to catch passing motorists’ eyes. Since his company began working on the Treasure Coast, it provides so-called sign spinners to different businesses from the Treasure Coast south to Fort Lauderdale.
“This is the best type of advertising,” Cokrlic said. “The human interaction and the driver’s reaction … brings in a lot of money for businesses.”
The only requirement for sign spinners is to attend free practice sessions. The more sessions they attend, the higher their pay, Cokrlic said.
“The spinners start off with $10 an hour,” he said. “They could make up to $20 an hour depending on how good they are.”
Sign spinning techniques are used worldwide, Cokrlic said. AArrow advertising started in San Diego and is involved in more than eight markets, Cokrlic said.
The company is working to win permission to advertise in more places across Florida. Cokrlic said he has to meet with local officials to get permits and each city or county government has different rules. He also said officials sometimes give him a hard time because they think that the sign spinning hurts businesses.
“We are swamped,” Cokrlic said. “We have enough employees on the Treasure Coast, but we are in need of employees down south.”
Andrew Sultz, manager of CiCi’s Pizza in Port St Lucie, sends an employee out every day to hold a sign touting his pizza.
“It grabs the attention of the drivers,” Sultz said.
While that might divert a driver’s focus from the road momentarily, it really is no more distracting than birds flying past or pedestrians crossing the street, said Jeffrey Napol, a Port St. Lucie resident.
On the other hand, Travis Bruton, a West Palm Beach resident who frequently drives along U.S. 1 on the Treasure Coast, said sign spinning is distracting and businesses should consider another strategy for advertising. He also said employees should stand near or in front of the business instead of at the edge of a major road.
“A moving sign will grab your attention,” Bruton said. “Instead of focusing on the road and what is in front of you, you are more focused on the sign.”
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said sign twirlers haven’t caused any accidents in his jurisdiction, nor have deputies cited them.
“If, in fact, we see them impeding traffic, they can be cited,” he said.
Hansman, the human sign post for Liberty Taxes, said she receives positive and negative feedback from drivers.
“People put their middle finger up, moon me, honk their horns and even flick cigarettes at me,” she said.
But the main concern to business owners is that people are seeing their advertisements. And they can’t miss her.
People can turn off the television or radio, AArrow Advertising’s Cokrlic said. But “when it comes to human advertising, it’s very hard not to grab their attention.”
Arilea S. Fenty is a Florida Atlantic University student working as a correspondent for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers as part of a senior-level journalism course.