Turn your house into a billboard

Perhaps you have seen cars or trucks that have been turned into a billboard but what about a house? A marketing company thinks there is a niche here, particularly with homeowners who need some extra cash:

When they saw the house on El Dorado Drive in this Los Angeles suburb being painted a startling orange and green and giant billboards hung on the outside, Scott and Beth Hostetler’s neighbors were initially angry and confused. Some even considered calling the police.

But what they witnessed on Friday was not an offensive redecoration decision by the Hostetlers, but rather the debut of one of the more unusual schemes to arise from the housing crisis. In return for allowing the front of their four-bedroom house to become a garish advertisement, the Hostetlers are getting their nearly $2,000 monthly mortgage paid by the marketing company behind the project, Brainiacs From Mars.

In a residential neighborhood without heavy traffic, cars passing by the house slowed and drivers gawked at the vivid colors and a giant Brainiacs From Mars billboard.

Romeo Mendoza, the company’s founder and CEO, told Reuters that his ultimate goal is to turn 1,000 homes across the United States into giant advertisements for his marketing firm.

Read on to hear more about the anger of the neighbors. I imagine some municipalities will move quickly to limit these actions. The neighbors will likely trot out typical NIMBY complaints: it will lower property values, it ruins the coherence or aesthetic of the neighborhood, and it causes safety and traffic problems because people slow down to look.

One piece I find really interesting here is that Mendoza argues that he really wants to help people in dire circumstances. Rather than simply pick homes that are on busy streets, he has picked “deserving cases.” Depending on how you look at it, this is either using marketing to benefit people or trying to cloak advertising in good intentions to help people forget that it is really about selling products. This is not an unusual scheme in advertising: in the process of branding, companies want to be connected to virtuous ideas, even to the point that these ideas matter more to the brand than the actual products themselves. If communities starting opposing Mendoza, I’m sure he will suggest that he is just trying to help people out in a creative way and it would be interesting to hear how communities respond to that particular argument.

It would also be interesting to hear how Mendoza charges for these house advertisements. Is it based on traffic counts? The demographics of the surrounding neighborhood? Isn’t he leaving money on the table by not doing this on major streets? Does this advertising actually drive consumers to certain products?

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