NEW YORK -- The advertising industry's latest vehicles may soon be passing you on Main Street and parking outside your neighbor's house at night.
Several California-based companies are paying drivers to wrap their personal cars in ads touting products like ice cream, juice bars and Internet services.
The driver's job is simple: Drive to and from work, pick up the kids, run errands -- and be willing to be a traveling billboard. Some companies are offering free use of a new ad-wrapped car, others are paying $300 to $400 a month to allow the wrapping.
Critics call it another example of creeping -- and creepy -- commercialism.
''What's next -- to pay people to have ads tattooed on their foreheads?'' asked Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media ecology at New York University.
The companies say they are giving average folks a chance to express themselves and cash in on advertisers' mad scramble to draw attention to their brands amid a crush of competing messages on billboards and buses as well as radio and TV.
''There is no reason a person shouldn't be able to advertise for a product they like,'' said Keith Powers, who founded San Francisco-based Myfreecar.com in October.
He has matched advertisers with about two dozen drivers in California and plans to branch out to other major markets. The company has ads printed on adhesive vinyl that is applied to a car from bumper to bumper.
Take Linda Morrison's yellow 1999 Volkswagen Beetle, for example. It's been wrapped since mid-April in advertising for Mobile Engines, a San Jose, Calif., company that provides services like movie schedules and reviews for customers of wireless Web devices.
Morrison, 59, said she avoids wearing commercial names on her clothes but she likes the attention she gets on her daily drive down Sunset Boulevard and through Beverly Hills to her job as a college administrative assistant.
''My car was cute as the dickens before, and the advertising just makes it cuter,'' she said. The money she gets for having her car wear the ad covers her monthly auto loan payments.
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