Against overly clever sidewalk sandwich-board signs

Heather Schwedel in Salon:

Img_20150428_144237_227_1024.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge“There is alcohol in this establishment. You love alcohol!”

These words recently greeted me from a chalkboard sign at a bar a few blocks away from my apartment. The sheer cheekiness nearly knocked me over. If I’d been about to enter that bar, I might have turned on my heels and walked away. The commercialism mixed with annoying solicitousness mixed with elbow-in-ribcage jokiness—it all felt so familiar. When did bar and café chalkboards start reading like some kind of cross between a pick-up line, “neg,” and Internet meme?

Long after the printing press rendered town criers obsolete, that other ancient form of information dissemination, the sidewalk sandwich board, quietly persists. Sometimes these chalkboards—you can find them standing outside certain not-corporate-and-proud-of-it businesses like bars, coffee shops, and boutiques—list the day’s specials or when happy hour is. But perhaps you too have lately noticed a certain creep away from the practical toward a softer sell: jokes, puns, quotations, drawings, and other creative expressions of branding. Too often, the results are cringeworthy…

Wondering if I was the only crank who found these signs aggressively unnecessary, I took to the Internet in search of sympathizers. I found plenty. “I think what irks me in general about these signs is just the overfamiliarity,” emailed Chiara Atik, a playwright and writer who has tweeted her ire for these signs. “Like I just want a coffee, not some timely allusion to last night’s Game of Thrones.” The strategy of attracting attention through clever signage may even be backfiring, resulting not in additional business but eye rolls. (From me anyway. I acknowledge the possibility that some people read these signs, laugh heartily, and happily hand over their dollars.)

Read the rest here.