Advert Converts

Texting while driving has quickly become the norm, at least in U.S. states where it continues to be legal. Not a day goes by where I’m not witness to a slow or erratic driver, the annoying behavior the direct result of a smartphone. My car horn gets a regular punch, reminding drivers, “HEY… the light just turned green!” All of which makes the notion of billboards as a driving distraction almost obsolete.

Like most things, billboards had their young and innocent days.  They popped up on interstates and major thoroughfares almost as soon as cars themselves did; bright, colorful advertisements meant to plant seeds in driver brains for future purchases.  At last count there were over 350,000 billboards in America alone.

Unlike smartphones however, billboards earn nothing but a passing glance as you speed by.  Their images and words are simple by design so you “get the picture” in an instant.  A few scientific studies went to great lengths to prove billboards increased the potential for accidents. Others showed they really had no impact at all.  Whichever is true, billboards stubbornly continue a part of the urban landscape.

But no matter how I spin this topic, we’re just talking about a straightforward means of advertising.  What’s so interesting about that, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

Consider the lifespan of a billboard.  The artwork is created on a smaller scale, reproduced to billboard size (previously by hand, now by computer), mounted up high on a roadside frame, and then allowed to distract drivers for months.  But eventually the billboard comes back down and you’re left with 700 square feet of heavy-duty used vinyl.  What now – off to the dump?

Not if you’re Rareform.  This company converts adverts into bags, totes, and duffles.  You can purchase anything from a travel surfboard bag to a soft-sided cooler, all fashioned from billboard vinyl.  You can even buy a cross-body bag for your laptop, with a cushy interior made of recycled water bottles.  Talk about “walking advertisements”, eh?

“Billboard” notebook

I really admire people who think outside of the box (because I find it so much more comfortable inside).  Rareform thinks outside of the board.  They brokered deals with advertising agencies for the used vinyl, hired cleaners, designers, sewers, and photographers to produce their one-of-a-kind products, and then created a website to bring it all to you.  As Rareform’s founders put it, “We’re in the business of change… and we believe billboards deserve a second chance.”  Considering they stock over 50,000 unique re-creations in their warehouse, I’d say they’re on to something.

A billboard can be a cooler if it wants to be

Billboards never really caught my eye until now.  Sure, I enjoy their creative advertising tactics, like using several billboards spread out over a mile or two, each one containing part of a message about a business you’ll find off the next off-ramp.  Or how about the ones like Chick-fil-A’s, with three-dimensional characters in front of the boards?  In 2010 in North Carolina, you could find a billboard of a giant, juicy steak with a big fork sticking out of it, emitting the scent of black pepper and charcoal.  Ready to grill?

Today’s billboards, of course, have gone digital.  You can pack a rotation of advertisements into the same space where there used to be one.  On broadcasts of Major League Baseball, you’ll see advertisements on the walls behind home plate as the camera shows the pitcher’s view of the batter.  Those advertisements aren’t really in the ballpark;  they’ve just been digitally applied back in the television studio.

Times Square is full of billboards

None of these billboard tricks impress me like the one Rareform conjured up.  I mean, what kind of brain looks at a billboard and goes “Hey, that could be a fashionable bag one day!”  Not my brain.  Rareform not only diverts tons of vinyl from landfills, it then puts it to practical re-use.  Makes me want to dumpster-dive my garbage can out back to see if I can come up with a trash rehash of my own.

Some content sourced from the Rareform website, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

18 thoughts on “Advert Converts”

  1. Reminds me of the fleece fabric that is being made out of recycled bottles!
    Your idea to ‘trash rehash’ is a good one. I’ll be posting my own rehash at the end of the week – toilet paper rolls…


    1. We use TP rolls to protect our small plants from bugs and critters when we transfer them into the garden. Did I guess right? 🙂


  2. Fascinating. I know about billboards, I see them everywhere and do my best to not read what they say. But to turn them into notebook covers and tote bags is brilliant. I’d pay attention to those items more than any billboard I see in the wild.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well now, you learn something new everyday. In my city, billboards are slowly being converted to giant TV screens – that we have that much freeway here – mostly just I-80 – to put up billboards. Still I think there are 8-10 here. At least two are for “adult novelty” stores. Not sure I’d want a bag made from one of those signs …


  4. I would never have thought of this either. Although it would be more accurate to say that the vinyl’s trip to the landfill is delayed instead of eliminated.

    I wonder if it could be used for vehicle wraps or for wallpaper (for those who favor bold colors, of course.) Or perhaps it could be re-used in full as roofing material for buildings near airports. The possibilities are almost endless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also I always see videos on Insta for how distracted drivers are now with their phones, but in the olden days we had to flip though the cd books or hold the Mapquest directions, so I suppose we’ve always been distracted. But I agree that texting and driving is a really dangerous problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As Andrew said above, some of those billboards are going digital – even more of a distraction. Same with sports venues, but at least there your safety isn’t tested.


  5. What a great idea Dave … the ultimate way to recycle and save the planet. I just assumed the billboard ads were made of a material like Tyvek to withstand the elements as sometimes I have seen them flapping in the breeze after being up for a long time. Here in Michigan we had an incident of electronic billboards being hijacked a few years ago. Someone infiltrated the codes used to create the messages and put some spicy messages there instead. As to the texting and driving, I see it all the time when I am walking. People looking down and driving at the same time, not just texting at a stop sign when the vehicle is stopped. I had a friend in Florida who was killed last year by a dump truck driver, who was texting at a red light and not paying attention and rear-ended Kirk who was in a car. They needed a crane to move the truck to access Kirk inside his vehicle – he died three days later of massive internal injuries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Banning texting while driving is one thing; enforcing it is another. I think smartphone technology should step it up so the only functionality while driving is a phone call (and only when linked to the car itself). Accidents like the example you gave are plentiful and even worse, utterly senseless. I recall a train accident not too long ago where the engineer was tagged with texting while driving.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a very good idea Dave. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from our state is working hard for vehicle technology to stop impaired drivers from being able to start the vehicle after a family of five from her district was killed by an impaired driver, driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. Hopefully the car cannot be jerry-rigged to start anyway. There are worries enough with trains carrying deadly chemicals on often unsafe tracks, without drivers texting on top of it. Stepping outside of your house every day you hope you return safely.


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