Bodies for Sale

Seeing the words is enough to think the Web site is a joke, considering all the parodies of Martha Stewart’s current life in prison. Seeing this phrase tattooed on an arm may lead one

Seeing the words is enough to think the Web site is a joke, considering all the parodies of Martha Stewart’s current life in prison. Seeing this phrase tattooed on an arm may lead one to believe the person is an avid fan of the decorating diva, or is continuing to poke fun at Stewart. But the deeper, unsettling purpose of such a tattoo is no joke: Advertising.

Joe Tamargo, who runs, auctioned parts of his body on eBay, where companies could permanently tattoo their message.

So far, Tamargo has been paid $500 to have the name of pharmaceutical company and $510 to have “Save Martha! It’s a good thing.” tattooed on his arm.

Another Web page designer also auctioned himself on eBay for advertising space. The winning bidder, a snoring solution company, paid $37,375 for Andrew Fischer to model their name, Snorestop, on his forehead for a month.

Golden Palace Casino, an online operation, paid a pregnant woman $4,050 to temporarily tattoo their logo on her stomach until she delivers her child.

Many factors contribute to an effective advertisement. Projecting the message to the largest amount of people and uniqueness are two key goals. The American consumer ignores tons of advertisements on a daily basis, and conveying a message to potential buyers can be extremely difficult. Companies are therefore attracted to body advertising as a creative approach.

But paying people to advertise on their bodies is a desperate money-driven attempt by the company to use individuals in order to earn a profit.

There is little creativity in instructing individuals to post a company logo on their bodies. Even though many wear brand name clothing, body advertising is far worse and exploitative. Even the most materialistic people put down their Louis Vuitton bags and take off their Manolo Blahniks when they sleep. Clothing is expression; body advertising is a regulation.

Tattoos are permanent and are intended to be meaningful and distinctive. People debate for years about the details and placement, striving for individuality. Body advertisers stoop to new lows by sacrificing their bodies for money and confirm the stereotypical American image of materialism.

Even if the body-advertising tattoo is not permanent, the principle still reaffirms this image.

If one were to look beyond the inhumanity of body advertising, this is simply not a practical way to market because it does not reach the largest number of people possible.

Media outlets, however, such as television commercials, can reach a nationwide audience. For example, Everybody Loves Raymond was ranked 10th among the top 10 television shows during one week last month, but still had 17,180,000 viewers. CSI, the top show on the list, had 30,717,000 viewers.

Most ideal for advertisers is the Super Bowl. The average number of viewers of a 30-second-spot this year was 86.1 million people. This market is perfect for advertisers; they are able to reach the largest audience possible in half of a minute.

There are always annoying advertisements regardless of the media form. But traditional advertisements, like commercials, can even be uninteresting while guaranteeing that a company will have a mass audience. With every 30-second spot, a commercial has reached thousands more potential consumers than a body advertiser can ever reach.

Even if a body advertiser lives in a large city and is constantly among people – say this person will see a maximum of about 10,000 people a day – a body advertiser can only reach 300,000 people a month.

Participants in body advertising should recognize it is not the same as wearing a brand-name shirt. Body advertising is a controlled environment and participants are compromising their integrity. Even logistically, advertisers need to determine which is more effective: advertising to thousands in months or millions in seconds.

Alexa Novachek can be reached at

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