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Bizzline: A sign of the times Part II

By Don Fraser, QMI Agency

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dan Willis has found a way to point his business in the right direction.

His odyssey began last year, with a simple sign advertising his Welland Ave. home business Publicita Online Marketing.

Alas, his property at Welland Ave. near George St. is zoned residential.

A complaint to the City of St. Catharines forced him to take down his sign, which was in breach of a city bylaw.

In his first attempt to beat the system, he generated a buzz with some curious handwritten signs that popped up on the lawn from time to time.

“I am a bad sign,” and “long-haired freaky people need not apply,” were among the messages.

With that cheeky ingenuity in mind, in July, Willis took a step further and replaced it with a nine-foot Google pin he’d built himself.


Dan Willis beside his "work of art" that is a representation of a Google pin and is outside his home office on Welland Ave. in St. Catharines.The hook — his Google address for Publicita is registered as “Avenue House L2R2N2” and that generates a pin to his home business.


“I am an online marketing person,” explained the energetic 53-year-old whose business is online at

“That’s what gave me the idea of the pin in the first place — I don’t need a physical address,” Willis said.

“And I don’t need a house number, I work in the virtual world,” he said. “So this is a work-around.”

Next thing you know, a photo of it went viral on the social media site — the sign "my friend's dad has a Google pin in his yard" now has at least 400,000 views through viral image website To visit the post, visit

Willis calls his stylized “P” pin a “work of art” that has also been merged into his new company logo: “It’s a manifestation of a virtual icon made real,” he said.

“I loved that it’s received that kind of notoriety,” Willis adds. “And I loved that on Facebook I see people posting ‘what’s with the Google pin on Welland Ave?’ … it’s driving me crazy, does anybody know?’” Willis said with a laugh.

“In marketing, that’s how you get them,” he said. “You put a question mark there, and when they solve it, they win.”

“Their curiosity is satisfied (I get new business) and I win.”

So far, he said, no complaints.

“Not a peep.”

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