- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

ANNAPOLIS | With the energy of a high school cheerleader and the showmanship of a professional football mascot, Anthony Carvo waves, points and performs tricks for drivers on Sunday afternoons in Annapolis.

“I like to get people’s attention,” said Mr. Carvo, 18, who spins 6-foot-long signs that advertise area businesses at the corner of West Street and Route 2. “I like to make them laugh. I also like to make them cheer for me.”

Mr. Carvo works for AArrow Advertising, a national firm that employs more than 500 people between the ages of 16 and 24 to spin special signs.

Earning between $10 and $20 an hour, they perform hundreds of sign-spinning tricks to grab the attention of drivers at busy intersections across the country.

In the Annapolis area, Mr. Carvo and other spinners have advertised for businesses including Watergate Village apartments and Third Eye Comics.

Standing at an intersection has some perks: Mr. Carvo said drivers often honk for him or give him tips.

Mr. Carvo said once he was working a five-hour shift on a Sunday in Annapolis when some passers-by gave him a soda.

“Some guys came up in an SUV, and they gave me a free root beer,” he said.

AArrow Advertising, based in San Diego, is the brainchild of Max Durovic, of Ocean Beach, Calif., who landed a summer job as a sign-holder two decades ago and danced as a way to make the job more entertaining.

Soon his friends applied for sign-holding gigs, becoming “human advertisers” who caught the attention of consumers with their street performance, according to the company.

Today, AArrow Advertising is a global company that advertises for everything from grand openings to sporting events to concerts.

Unlike a traditional sign or billboard, sign spinners provide advertising with a touch of human interaction, said Anastasia Stepanova, general manager for the company’s corporate market covering Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties.

“If someone is standing out there and they smile and wave at you, there is an exchange of positive energy there,” she said. “They are all very entertaining and they have their signature tricks.”

Ms. Stepanova said spinners are typically high school and college students who work two or three days a week, often on weekends when school’s out. The job tends to attract men, but the company is pushing to recruit more women, she said.

“It would add variety to the team, and I think it gets the guys motivated,” she said.

There aren’t any fitness prerequisites for the job, but employees often play on basketball or football teams. Other spinners aren’t athletes, but “you would be surprised at how great they look after a few weeks,” Ms. Stepanova said.

Prior to starting the job, spinners are required to attend a six-week “boot camp” and show up for practices to learn sign-spinning tricks and basic safety.

“We try and get the practices to resemble real work situations,” she said.

And that means working in all types of weather.

“If it’s raining, we’ll still be out there,” she said.

Each employee is covered by insurance; “spinjuries” - often caused by signs hitting a spinner’s ankles or wrists - aren’t uncommon, she said.

But employees are given safety instructions, including tips on how to spin in crowded areas, she said.

“We would never put someone out there who is completely clueless,” she said.

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