“Single?” Lawn Signs Conquer the American Landscape
November 6, 2008 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Chances are, over the past two years you've seen lawn signs for [your_town_name]singles.com If you're like me, you wondered about the marketing strategy behind them. If you're like this guy, you launch an obsessive investigation into the phenomenon.

tl;dr - an interesting essay about marketing strategy and good ol' sleuthing.
posted by lekvar (41 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
That effort was singularly impressive.
posted by exogenous at 1:54 PM on November 6, 2008

nice post.
posted by felix at 1:56 PM on November 6, 2008

Considering how ubiquitous the net is these days, it's pretty amazing that he was the first person to ever mention these lawn signs online.
posted by tommasz at 1:56 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am like you.
posted by owtytrof at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Fascinating. I've seen these before and wondered about them. Cool post!
posted by brundlefly at 2:11 PM on November 6, 2008

Ok, bit creepy. Bit too much time on his hands.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:18 PM on November 6, 2008

After extensive research and study I have discovered that this essay is actually a very long advertisement for the author's business consultancy website. You can read my shocking and painstaking investigation on my homepage: www.mac/angelfire/~8927/umlats4U.hmtl.jpg
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:27 PM on November 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've seen these before and wondered about them too. This guy is a cyber Raymond Chandler.
posted by nedkingsley at 2:32 PM on November 6, 2008

Back when I was cracking into companies in New York, I discovered a tried and true trick for getting a CEO’s cell phone number: historical WHOIS records. Often, the original registrant of a company’s domain name is its founder. As such, it’s common for the founder’s personal contact information to exist at some point in the WHOIS database. As the company grows, they change the record, but by that time (often unbeknownst to them) companies like domaintools have already saved the old information in their archive.

I love this article. Thanks for the post.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:41 PM on November 6, 2008

Bit too much time on his hands.

For someone whose job it was/is to look into web based companies from the investment point of view, I suspect that this took him less time than I spent trying to extrapolate Obama / McCain for Missouri's 95% returns Tuesday night.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:45 PM on November 6, 2008

It always freaks me out when people pay $10,000 plus for a dating service.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:46 PM on November 6, 2008

Am I missing the obvious here? Why didnt he just fill out the form and see where it went? I imagine after a certain point youre on the actual site and youre reading some convincing marketing speak. This is a business after all, not the NSA's secret wifi enabled toaster.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:00 PM on November 6, 2008

Good post, thanks.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:08 PM on November 6, 2008

dda, that wouldn't have given him any insight into the depth or breadth of the organization. The article points out that, besides the local franchise offices, there are several levels of holding and parent companies.
posted by lekvar at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2008

My roomate and I had passed on here in Indy (Southportdating.com) and we went to the website because we kept making jokes about this unincorporated city being able to sustain a dating site and who just might be on the actual site. I believe after he filled out the form it said someone would call him. He used all bs information so we never heard from them.
posted by Phantomx at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2008

That was, somewhat disturbingly, a very gripping read.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 3:32 PM on November 6, 2008

I was waiting for him to mention that placing "guerrilla advertising" signs on public or private property without permission is not cool (or legal), but instead his conclusion seems to be that this kind of spamming/littering is actually admirable somehow.
posted by finite at 3:33 PM on November 6, 2008

It would have been a lot more gripping if there hadn't been so many uses of the word "I."
posted by mudpuppie at 3:50 PM on November 6, 2008

thanks for this post. These signs are all over the place near my house and work, and I'd been wondering about 'em too.
posted by xbonesgt at 3:58 PM on November 6, 2008

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posted by dhartung at 4:08 PM on November 6, 2008

This is why I love the internet - someone else does all the hard work, and I get to enjoy the results.
posted by brandman at 4:33 PM on November 6, 2008

This appeals to me.

Wow-is it really possible this lawn sign network includes so many domain names? I whipped out my credit card and purchased the answer. I stared in disbelief at an Excel file containing every domain name hosted across these three servers: 8,870 of them. They all fit the formula: a town name and a dating keyword.

If this person doesn't have a MeFi account yet, they deserve one.
posted by odinsdream at 4:41 PM on November 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ok, I read the article, but I'm still not clear on how this business works. The lawn signs and the websites collect contact info from potential customers. Then the company calls up the potential customers and hard sells a membership to a dating site for $X,000? Really?
posted by ryanrs at 4:45 PM on November 6, 2008

I now feel justified in aggressively removing these signs.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:39 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yep, I gleefully pull them up whenever I can. One morning I took out 14 of them on a stretch of road about three miles long.
posted by magicbus at 6:05 PM on November 6, 2008

These signs were all around Providence and drove me bats - why would CRANSTONSINGLES need a separate website from WARWICKSINGLES or PROVIDENCESINGLES? I know a 20 min. drive in Rhode Island is considered worthy of packing a lunch, but would that really be a long-distance relationship?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:06 PM on November 6, 2008

this was unexpectedly awesome but I don't think the story is over. he stated it was an unverified claim that people really paid ten grand for this dating service. why didn't he sign up? why didn't he try to verify what happened next? why are there no attempts at trying to talk to the CEO?

there is a great blog on the industry called onlinepersonalswatch. I'd love to hear their thoughts on this, too.
posted by krautland at 10:09 PM on November 6, 2008

We even have them here in Oklahoma, which is a state not on the map. That means these people in KS and TX are branching waaaay out into small towns in Northeastern OK. Too weird!
posted by aliceinreality at 12:57 AM on November 7, 2008

*by not on the map, I mean a state that does not have a franchise. Not that I have an extremely poor grasp of geography.
posted by aliceinreality at 12:58 AM on November 7, 2008

Removing the signs seems ineffective.

I'm wondering what I could write on the sign with my Sharpie to make them stop planting the signs.

Something that would cause anyone to read it decide simply clicking on the site would infect their PC with cyber-venereal disease.
posted by surplus at 2:25 AM on November 7, 2008

I wrote an email to mark, who runs onlinepersonalswatch, which I mentioned above, and he wrote me back that the guys running this dating site are his clients and that he'd have a "serious chat with them today" ... this could end up an interesting read. I hope he'll tell us more about all this on his blog.
posted by krautland at 6:48 AM on November 7, 2008

surplus: How about writing "Only $10,000" ? That would certainly seal the deal for me.
posted by abulafa at 6:53 AM on November 7, 2008

I'm not sure why I found this so fascinating, but I did. I wonder what it's like to work for them - it seems like it would be one of those places that runs shady ads in the local free paper every single week. The desperate finally apply and then when you start working there they first want to know the names of every subdivision in the area and then, before you know it, you're planting signs when you thought you'd finally landed an office job.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:04 AM on November 7, 2008

Would guerilla marketing include hiring a buff to write an insanely interesting web article on an 'investigation' so the whole wide world learned who the real dating agency behind all that stuff was and could 'drive' their business? It wouldn't, would it?
posted by Laotic at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2008

posted by mattbucher at 10:59 AM on November 7, 2008

The matchmaking business is different than the dating site biz. The signs and the dating sites provide the leads for the matchmaking, which, from what I understand, is more involved, promises more and costs a lot.
posted by bonefish at 3:47 PM on November 7, 2008

Would guerilla marketing include

that sounds like the hair-brained idea of some account executive any half-decent creative director would shoot down in a second. does this whole thing leave a positive taste in your mouth? did you react by signing up or thinking "hey, this sounds really cool, I should tell xyz about it?"

I'd suggest the chance that this is an attempt at astroturfing is somewhere close to nil but then again what do I know, I only work in this business.
posted by krautland at 9:54 AM on November 8, 2008

oh, krautland, I am not the person to ask, because I pretty much hate everything your folk produce: it just seemed weird that someone went to such pains to "discover" something that'd probably been there all the time.
posted by Laotic at 12:08 PM on November 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't think these guys charge thousands of dollars for their services... I think they charge thousands for the information. As he said, the business is a natural monopoly: it's the information that's worth money, and when the big players are bidding for the personal details of thousands of people, it's worth thousands to them.
posted by Acey at 3:23 PM on November 8, 2008

Metafilter: because I pretty much hate everything your folk produce
posted by finite at 3:01 PM on November 10, 2008

because I pretty much hate everything your folk produce

you need to look harder.
posted by krautland at 12:15 PM on November 11, 2008

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