What Is Tattoo Advertising? | How Do Companies Buy Space on the Body to Advertise?

What Is Tattoo Advertising? | How Do Companies Buy Space on the Body to Advertise?

The concept is known as Human Billboard Advertising. It includes having advertisements tattooed on the body, wearing advertisements as clothing, or even holding or wearing an advertisement sign. The people who engage in these activities are known as ‘Human Directionals.’

History of Body Tattoos as Advertisements
Companies That Have Used Tattoo-Vertising
Tattoo Advertising and Its Importance for Companies and Brands
Perks of Tattoo Advertising

Different Types of Advertising to Use for Marketing 

History of Body Tattoos as Advertisements

Global Advertising Spending from 2014 to 2022
Global Advertising Spending from 2014 to 2022

The idea first emerged with the magazine 'Vibe', which first predicted the use of tattoo advertising by brands in 1999. Early 2001 saw the cheerleaders of Lincoln Lightening’s High Voltage Dance Team wearing temporary tattoos on their bare midriffs advertising local companies. September 2001 saw boxer Bernard Hopkins being paid USD 100,000 by a prominent online casino to wear a temporary tattoo on his back during his championship fight with Felix Trinidad. He was the first athlete to wear a tattoo advertisement during a professional sports event. Six months later, the participants of the show, Celebrity Boxing, were sporting similar tattoo advertisements from the same company.

The tremendous success that this advertising move generated for the online casino encouraged them to engage in more advertising tattoos in 2003 at the US Open, French Open, and UEFA Cup Final. Andrew Fischer auctioned his forehead space for advertising on eBay in 2005. It drew a final bid of USD 37,375 for thirty days. It was the time when tattoo advertising gained popularity, with big brands and companies using these services. It has earned the name of ‘tattoo-vertising’.

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Companies That Have Used Tattoo-Vertising

Toyota Tattoo Advertising for Scion tC
Toyota Tattoo Advertising for Scion tC

Toyota is a prime example of tattoo advertising. They hired 40 people to wear temporary tattoos on their foreheads which showed the brand name, car model, and asking price. They were paid USD 11 per hour to wear those tattoos. It was to promote their new car, the Scion tC. This non-traditional form of advertising was used to target customers between the age group of 30 and 40.

United Kingdom cities of Leeds, London, Glasgow and Cardiff used Forehead tattoo advertising to promote a European television channel.

The airline company, Air New Zealand hired a woman to display a temporary tattoo advertisement. After this, there were 30 people who joined this campaign, earning various gifts from the company.

Tattoo Advertising and Its Importance for Companies and Brands

The world of advertising is continuously evolving and that evolution has happened by leaps and bounds with the advent of the internet. Brands and businesses evolved their marketing strategies to suit the changing world of advertisement. There are many marketing avenues available to companies – television, radio, internet ads, social media, SMS messaging, email campaigns and many others.

The newest evolution in the world of advertisements is Tattoo branding. Tattoos were once seen as a silent cry of rebellion. However, over time their status has grown more mainstream which has resulted in advertisers using them to market their products and services. Marketers and companies are increasingly leveraging the power of tattoo advertising to establish an emotional connect with their audience and turn them into loyal customers.

The iconic cultural status of the tattoo is now exploited by marketers to deliver a specific message relating to their brand. Companies like Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co., and Volvo have used tattoos for advertising and promotion. In fact, Dunlop, which is Goodyear’s tyre unit, had offered a free set of tyres to people tattooing their flying-D logo on their bodies. They got approximately 100 people who took up the offer. Volvo created a unique fictional character whose tattoos revealed an undersea location co-ordinates that had USD 50,000 in gold coins and the keys to a new car. This was an attempt to get people to view the brand differently.

The popular marketing gimmick has also been utilized by wine sellers like Yellow Tail Brand which sent out 600,000 temporary tattoos with an issue of the New Yorker magazine. Billington Wines, the wine importer named its USD 10 bottle, Big Tattoo Wines.

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Perks of Tattoo Advertising

This particular medium of advertising has witnessed tremendous growth, as it offers a few benefits and perks to companies and people alike.

  • Perks for Companies

For various companies and brands, tattoo advertising is more cost-effective than other media like television or print. They offer cash and various other prizes to people, who wish to tattoo their brand name on their bodies.

  • Perks for People

There are a few professionals who actually make a living by tattooing logos and slogans of different brands. It is a way to earn money, as companies are willing to pay for it. Sometimes, people also get perks like travelling vouchers or the use of some high-end facility for specific services.


Tattoo advertising is a relatively new and emerging concept within the advertising industry. Tattooing has emerged from the shadows to occupy a space within the corporate industry. As an advertising medium, it is here to stay.


What is tattoo advertising?

Tattoo advertising is a type of advertising in which a brand pays a person to get a permanent or temporary tattoo to promote its products or services.

Which companies have used tattoo advertising?

The companies that have used tattoo advertising are:

  • Toyota
  • Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Co.
  • Volvo
  • Billington Wines
  • Yellow Tail

How did Toyota use tattoo advertising?

In 2004, Toyota hired 40 people to wear temporary tattoos on their foreheads that showed the brand name, car model, and asking price. It was to promote their new car, the Scion tC.

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