Introduction: Phony Fliers With Rip-off Tabs

About: Build.Share.Destroy.Repeat. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!

People post fliers all the time, usually with a very specific interest which needs to be filled such as an advertisement for babysitter, promoting a service or selling an old sofa. The problem is that these interests are narrow in scope; not everyone who has kids needs a sitter and not everyone who needs a sofa will be looking on a flier for their purchase.

What if we were to conduct a social experiment that opens the interaction level of the public with fliers beyond a narrow scope, into areas where people might be interested in fliers strictly due to theme or idea rather than specific content? Let's find out!
Make your own phony fliers and find out who's interested in what!

The phony flier project aims at understanding how to engage with the public and how they interact with fliers that promote nonsense and disharmony in public space. This project will show you how to make your own phony fliers, along with the replies I got from the fliers I distributed as part of my experiment.

Enough talk, let's confuse everybody!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

The easiest way to make this project is to have some kind of image-manipulating software, such as Photoshop or Gimp. In a pinch you can use MS Paint or whatever default program comes loaded with your computer. You can easily download the combined file I used for my fliers here

  • computer
  • image editing software
  • scissors

  • paper
  • pen
  • ruler
  • time
  • scissors
  • paper
  • tape
  • staple gun
  • time


Step 2: Create Interest

I made all these fliers myself using photo-editing software like Photoshop and Gimp to make each of the images. You could easily make this work in MS Paint or any other image software.
In whichever program you like, open a new document and set the project size to A4 (8.5"x11"), then embelish any crazy idea you like with freely available images and ideas from the internet or your brain.

Drawing heavily from my love of science-fiction, I made these fliers based on things I thought would be widely appealing to fellow nerds and maybe funny to 'Joe Passerby'. 
Feel free to remix any of these or use them as a template for your own evil devices. The email address shown in the images has now been deactivated, make sure you put your own email address in the image so you can see the responses!

Fliers I used (clockwise from top left):
  • VK Test,  Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep (Blade Runner) - Philp. K. Dick
  • Lando Calrissian looking for transport - Star Wars
  • Experimental surgery compensated with illegal pills - original
  • Physicist needed to fill Gordon Freeman's position - Half-Life
  • Klingon bride needed - Star Trek
  • Wingding nonsense - original
You may have noticed that I included a few that were non-science-fiction-y: like Interventional Chirugy and Wingdings.
Hmmm, maybe that makes me a double-nerd. Whatever.

Download my fliers here

Step 3: Print

After creating your custom fliers print them out, print lots...lots and lots.
And just when you think you've printed enough, print some more.

Consider that there are many reasons why your flier may be removed, sometimes right after you post it. Always print extra and give to friends to disseminate and maximize coverage, widening the net of possible contacts from different neighbourhoods.
I printed over 100.

After printing, gather about 4-6 sheets and cut out each tab. Be careful if you go beyond 6 sheets as the paper buckles and your cuts will be uneven.

Step 4: Apply

If you are looking for replies you're going to have to put in some leg-work and get your message out there.

Consider that one area isn't enough to get a response, so there's not much good in bombing a tight radius. Spread your message by taking transit to a destination and post a few fliers at transfer points or other areas of high traffic.

I selected a few areas which I knew would see a large volume of people in a short period of time:
  • public thoroughfares
  • train stations
  • major intersections
  • educational campuses

Step 5: ..keep Applying

High-traffic areas are a great start but aren't enough, you need to be creative on where you post your fliers to ensure maximum coverage.

I left these fliers everywhere I could think, in any place that I though someone would eventually find it. In order to cast the widest net and attract the most people you will need to place you fliers in places that everyone will look, and also where no one is expecting.

Be sneaky, post your fliers in obscure places. Sometimes people have blinders on when it comes to public spaces and just ignore things that are right in front of them, but are more apt to read something if they happen upon it themselves. Such as:
  • on trees in parks
  • community centre message boards
  • residential bus stops
  • random transit
  • behind street signs
  • leave them sandwiched in random free newspapers.
Based on some of the replies I've had the project has been a success in both the heavy and not-so-heavy traffic areas.

Step 6: Results!

Amount of feedback:
This is so important it bears repeating. I printed about 30 fliers my first run, after a week of no emails I revisited every one of the spots that I hung the original 30 and discovered most had been removed by evil people and party poopers cleaning crews and concerned citizens. Since I wanted results, I redoubled my efforts and printed off loads and loads.

During the course of this experiment I was lucky enough to arrange some travel and took some fliers with me on my journey to try and capture a very wide audience. My trip was over a span of a month and had a few layovers involved.
Throughout the course of the trip fliers were spread out over the Pacific Coast of North America, focusing on San Francisco at first, but encompassed Sacramento CA, Eugune OR, Portland OR, Seattle Wa. With another high-concentration in Vancouver BC, my final destination.

Here are some of the email's I've received, some are more obvious than others:

  • I saw your poster at Church Street Station, now am more confused than ever. Is this a riddle?
  • What do the symbols mean?
  • My forehead will rule you
  • ppp{{{grrp!
  • Lando, I got your ride. hit me up
  • wat?
  • You better not give my 'surprise' away - Darth V
  • lol, wtfbbq
  • Can I still apply if I'm afraid of headcrabs?
  • 12 parsecs., my cruiser can do 8!!
  • Nice try Deckard
  • I need the $, I'll do it!
  • my pile has prolapsed, help?
  • what a wookie!!!!
  • my bat'leth needs blood

some content has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Want to collect your own bizarre reactions from random strangers? Try it for yourself and share your results in the comments below.

Have fun!