I advertised myself on a billboard to get a date

When I see the billboard it still raises a smile. Looking at a supersize me is pretty unusual – I’m met with feelings of disbelief (did I REALLY do that?) and gratification. The whole thing continues to feel pretty surreal to me. 

The idea for the billboard started off in the pub after a few drinks.

My mate Josh and I were discussing our love lives and struggles with dating, in particular with apps such as Tinder and Bumble.  

Flicking through our phones, we shared our ‘matches’ or lack of them, in my case – I’d been single for over a year.

I was finding it difficult to get matches on the apps, let alone go on dates. I am not exactly sure why, but I thought it could be due to the fact that dating apps give the illusion of plenty of choice, and therefore the people swiping on the other end probably thought there was someone ‘better’ than me out there. 

I work in marketing, and had already tried ‘optimising’ my profileto improve it, sprinkling in a good mix of humour and flattering photos that Ifelt for sure would work, but to no avail. 

Frustrated, I made a remark along the lines of: ‘What the hell have I got to do to stand out? At this rate I’ll have to buy a billboard and put my face on it!’

It was obviously a joke, but after we had a laugh about it, I stopped for a second and thought: ‘Wait, I wonder if that would work?’

The plan became ingrained in my mind. Once I have an idea, it takes over, and I find it very hard to let it go. 

Several weeks passed before I decided that this was something I was actually going to go through with. I was excited, but I knew that if I was going to do it, I had to do it in my style: humour mixed with self-deprecation. Otherwise, I’d look like an idiot and we’d be back to square one.

I started googling billboard companies, and after some back and forth with one company I explained what I wanted to do. I thought they would think I was absolutely insane, or even flat out refuse to do it. I was relieved when they came back and said: ‘It’s not weird, trust us – we’ve had it all.’

To have the best chance of success, I requested a prime locationin the lead up to Valentine’s Day. We settled on Fairfield Street in Manchesterbecause it’s one of the biggest cities in the UK, and this particular spot hada very high footfall. 

Once the design was sent, that was it, the billboard was going up. The initial thrill turned to fear and dread. I began experiencing serious buyer’s remorse. But the wheels were in motion – there was no backing out. 

Three weeks before the big day, I sent them my design. I thought that if I came up with something really, really bad, then it might actually… almost be good. I went for an eye-catching orange colour, ugly font, and a ridiculous photo of me lying down to grab people’s attention and hopefully make them laugh. 

The actual photograph was taken back in the summer while my friend George was testing out the camera on his new iPhone. I thought it would be funny to pose in a seductive manner, but obviously neither of us knew at the time that it would one day end up being used on a billboard!

The billboard itself cost £425 and it would be up for a minimum of two weeks. I know it’s a lot of money, but I decided that it would definitely be worth it if I could find love. 

Once the design was sent, that was it, the billboard was going up. The initial thrill turned to fear and dread and I began experiencing serious buyer’s remorse. But the wheels were in motion – there was no backing out. 

Worst case scenario, I thought I would get trolled pretty hard, and best case, I’d maybe even bag myself a few dates.

When I first saw it in all its glory, I was shocked by just how large it was, and how busy the road was where it had been placed. I think I actually got a little bit teary from laughing so hard, too. 

Within a matter of minutes, I began receiving dating applications through the website I’d set up. A few were jokes or support from friends, of course, but there were some legitimate ones too. I was surprised, in a very good way. 

It wasn’t long before the likes of the BBC, Manchester Evening News and Evening Standard began to contact me. That was the start of a crazy media frenzy that would see me appearing live on BBC World News, ITV’s This Morning and radio channels over the next few days. My billboard went viral – globally.

It was also the start of a rollercoaster of emotions. To begin with, I found the media interest exciting – if a little ridiculous – and I was ecstatic that people were contacting me to go on a date. But after a few days, I was exhausted from trying to keep up with it all. Hundreds of people were emailing, calling, DM’ing. Friends, journalists, TV producers, even minor celebrities such as Lewis Ellis from the Apprentice. My phone notifications were going nuts.

I had TV shows such as Naked Attraction asking if I’d go on, holiday companies offering me free trips, and someone with the same surname as me got in touch to ask if we were long lost relatives. 

Eventually, things became a bit overwhelming and stressful. People who were trying to contact me either for media interviews or for a date were also contacting my place of work, my friends and my family to try and get my attention.

Everyone wanted a piece of me, and there just wasn’t enough to go around. I was drained. For the most part my family and friends were very supportive, they couldn’t believe what was happening, but at the time some of my friends were a little disgruntled that I was taking ages to respond to their messages. 

Thankfully, things have calmed down a little since, which has given me time to focus on the actual point of this exercise: trying to get a date. I obviously do feel like there’s pressure for me to find someone, but I am optimistic that the person for me is among those who applied. 

I hugely underestimated how effective this would be, and how longit would take to go through the applications and arrange dates with people.

So, I’ve decided to get a friend to help, and I’ve also been speaking with a matchmaker to see whether they can offer advice too. 

I had my first date on Valentine’s Day, and have so far met with three smart and attractive women from very different careers, religions, and backgrounds, including a journalist and a Buddhist. They all found the concept of the billboard fun and refreshing, and were equally as frustrated with dating apps as I was.

I’m glad I did what I did, and I believe it will change the direction of my life for the better. To my knowledge, the billboard was still up as of a week or so ago – I’m surprised it hasn’t been graffitied on by now!

I’m looking forward to the future and seeing how this all pans out, but I’m still looking for the one. Wish me luck…

My Life through A Lens

My Life Through a Lens is a new and exciting series on Metro.co.uk that looks at one incredible photo, and shares the story that lies behind it. If you have an experience you would like to share, please email [email protected] with MLTAL as the subject.

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