|An artist draws a logo on a model's shoulder for a public relations event. Body advertising is becoming increasingly popular. — Photo Courtesy of Vinamost Company
by Thu Van
HA NOI (VNS) — Phuong hung up the phone, sat down and leaned back against the wall. Wiping her tears, Phuong sat still and stared blankly into space.
Ten minutes later, she got up and went to her makeup desk. She had a job to do.
With blush and mascara concealing her anger, Phuong arrived at the office of the Ha Noi–based Vinamost company, which offers human resources for a variety of purposes, including secretaries and promotion girls for public relations events.
Four other girls were already at the office. They were wearing the same kind of one-shoulder dresses and their arms were painted with the web address of a software company. Phuong quickly changed into the same dress and had an artist paint the same logo on her arms.
When the artist was done, off they went to the city center, where Phuong and the other four girls would walk around with their arms exposed so passers-by could see the logo. They were doing what is called "body advertising".
While she was smiling, trying to get the attention of those passing by, she still heard her mother's angry voice in her head. They had just had an argument over the phone for the third time in the last six months.
Six months ago, Vinamost started to offer body advertising services. When Phuong registered to participate, her mother was not happy with the decision.
"Do you think it's good to let other people stare at your body like that?" she said to Phuong, a student at the Banking Academy of Viet Nam, when she saw a picture of her daughter with a company logo on her leg.
Though Phuong tried to explain that the job is "no less normal" than other jobs, her mother insists that she quit.
"I don't argue with her anymore and just keep on doing my job. I believe it's a serious job and I want people to look at it the same way I do," she said.
"I think it's a service with a lot of potential for the advertising industry. When I walk around with logos or pictures on my arms, shoulders or legs, I find people are attracted to the products I'm trying to advertise," she explained.
An age-old marketing strategy to make sure your advertisement is effective is to place it where many people will see it. So body advertising is not entirely illogical.
Body advertising in modern times dates back to 2001, when Golden Palace, an online gambling site, paid a boxer to wear a temporary tattoo with its web address during a televised bout. The site later paid an American mother $10,000 to tattoo the URL on her forehead.
Last year, Olympic runner Nick Symmonds as an advertising platform for Hanson Dodge Creative. The brand design and advertising company paid $11,000 to put its Twitter handle on Symmonds' shoulder.
In Asian countries, body advertising is still somewhat off limits. Yet this is increasingly changing.
Japanese PR company Absolute Territory PR is paying young women to wear advertising stickers on their "absolute territory" – the part of their thighs between the edge of their miniskirts and their high socks.
Some Chinese real estate companies even hire space on girls' bare backs to paint pictures of their buildings.
Tran Xuan Duc, Management Director of Vinamost, said that his clients who used the new service said the results were "beyond their expectations".
Models like Phuong take pictures with many people, which are shared on social networks so the logos can be widely viewed.
Vuong Phuong Thao, a senior public relation officer at Gia Hoa Advertising Company in Ho Chi Minh City, said she found body advertising "very effective" and "sold the idea" to many businesses looking to do PR campaigns.
It's hard to say whether the advertising industry in Viet Nam will take the strategy to the next level and use tattoos. But it's clear that the technique of body painting, at least, is enjoying a lot of popularity, said Nguyen Hanh, director of Green Apple Advertising Company in HCM City.
When asked if she would dare to tattoo an advertisement on herself, Phuong laughed.
"I'm not crazy enough to have something on my forehead, but I would consider it if the offer was attractive enough," she said. — VNS