The story of the "Liar Liar" billboards.

Submitted by Section 1 on May 3rd, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Well, most of you know the basic story.  There is this billboard on eastbound I-94, near Wayne Road (that's in the neighborhood of Detroit Metro Airport):

There is another one, I am told, in the Grand Rapids area.  Chime in if you know of any others.

So, naturally, this provocative billboard is seen, and photographed by somebody using a cellphone camera (see grainy photo above) and sent to a Twitter account, where it quickly finds its way to a blog (Kegs 'n Eggs) and from there...

A current Google search of "LIAR LIAR VEST ON FIRE" turns up 15,500 hits as of right now.  An even better search is "LIAR LIAR VEST ON FIRE" + "michigan fans".  Because that search gets to the heart of the matter.

You see, the whole freaking world presumes that "Michigan fans" have created this billboard.  SBNation.  DrSaturday.  ElevenWarriors.  Local tv in Cleveland.  Big Ten Illustrated.  Why?  Well it is certainly not because anybody has really reported that fact.  It is just one of those social media level presumptions that has taken on the status of "well I saw it on the internet, so..."

The assertion -- that "Michigan fans" created this signage -- might just be true.  But it probably isn't.  Here's why.

Many of you remember that southeast- and west-Michigan had some similar billboards back in late 2010, around the time of the bowl season.  They looked like this:

And naturally, the local media wanted the back story on that endeavor, which definitively did not involve "Michigan fans."  What was the real story?  Well, it was kind of interesting:

Asked who is responsible for the boards, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis responded in a text, "Not me ... know nothing about it."

The idea actually came from a Michigan State alum, who also happens to be the local sales manager for CBS Outdoor advertising.

About 10-12 of the boards are expected to be put up around the state, most with sponsor names on them.

Two are already in place -- on northbound I-75, north of I-94, and another in Grand Rapids. There's also one coming to the Lansing area, and the rest will be located in metro-Detroit.

"I have several State alumni and State fans that work for me," said Tom Carroll, vice president of the Michigan Region for CBS Outdoor. "The billboard is our response to Michigan State getting snubbed."

The following e-mail was sent to potential sponsors: "MSU fans are wondering how their football team can 'convincingly' trounce Wisconsin 34-24 during the regular season, tie with Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship, and still not receive the prestigious invitation to the annual Rose Bowl.

"CBS Outdoor has designed the attached billboard that lays out all the pertinent facts. We are offering a very special chance for you to ask the world 'what's going on?' ... Go Spartans!!!"

Credit Carroll's sales man, Bob Brown, for hatching the idea.

"As a MSU alum, I kind of felt some of the frustration," Brown said. "I thought there's probably other people out there like me, that own businesses, that would like to participate."

So what did your old buddy Section 1 do?  I called Bob Brown, who is a friendly and agreeable chap.  I asked Bob who was behind the "Liar Liar" billboards.  "That's an Anonyomous purchaser," was Bob's answer.  Gosh, I replied, had he been asked about this before?  Because half the college sportsnews outlets in the country were running with the unfounded story that "Michigan fans" were behind this billboard.  "That's kind of funny, " Bob replied.  He continued, "Really?  Because we've only had a couple -- well maybe a few -- media inquiries."   "Bob," I asked, "You haven't told anybody in the media that 'Michigan fans' put up the billboard, have you?"  "No," he said.  "We're not commenting on that."

This is a funny, wonderful case-study in how social media can promote an inaccuracy, isn't it?  I actually urged Bob to make this second act public, as a marker of the power of a catchy billboard.  What strikes me is that I don't think that this was any form of intentional sock-puppetry by a Saprtan alum.  I don't think that they wanted to put up a "fake Michigan-fan" billboard.  No; I think the subliminal message was, hey MSU should have gone to the Rose Bowl for the way we hammered Wisconsin, and MSU should definitely have gone to the Rose Bowl if the Buckeyes had all of their 2010 wins vacated.  Uh, ya know? 

The strange part is that the whole world skipped right over Sparty, and presumed that "Michigan" (like, the Buckeyes' one true rival of any consequence?!?) must have been repsonsible for this public act of Tressel-hate. 

I don't think so.



May 3rd, 2011 at 4:58 PM ^

Homer:  Well, there's not a bear in sight.  The Bear Patrol is sure doing its job.

Lisa:  That's specious reasioning, Dad.

Homer:  Thank you, sweetie.

Lisa:  Dad, what if I were to tell you that this rock keeps away tigers.

Homer:  Uh-huh, and how does it work?

Lisa:  It doesn't work.  It's just a stupid rock.

Homer:  I see.

Lisa:  But you don't see any tigers around, do you?

Homer:  Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock.


May 3rd, 2011 at 5:08 PM ^

So, if OSUs wins from last year end up being erassed from the record books due to the whole saga, that would leave a tie between UW and MSU for the big ten champ, in which MSU holds the tiebreaker. Will that make MSU the big ten champion last year?

Just a thought.


May 3rd, 2011 at 5:26 PM ^

My understanding is that vacating wins is not that same as forfeiting games. Obviously TSIO would no longer be considered B1G champs, but would it mean that the UW  or MSU situation changes at all?

Someone in the know should throw down.

Section 1

May 3rd, 2011 at 5:47 PM ^

Because the December MSU-Wisconsin billboards were merely "protest."  They weren't going to change the bowl assignments.  I think this too is merely protest and angry denunciation.

Honest to God, guys -- Do any of you really think that anybody paid for these billboards?  I think NOBODY paid for them.  "Nobody," that is, in the form of Bob Brown and the Detroit CBS Outdoor office.  Because they are their own billboards!  Bob, I expect, is having HUGE green-and-white fun as this progresses...


May 3rd, 2011 at 6:28 PM ^

For the final year. It's not like they cut the Championship Trophy in half instead of 3 pieces. So after the bowls have been played, it would mean basically nothing to MSU. Which actually strengthens Section 1's argument because I could see a Sparty do that.
<br>Where it would have become interesting is if they had played OSU and that was their only or second loss. Then there could have been some interesting, if equally futile, complaints.

Wolverine 73

May 3rd, 2011 at 5:13 PM ^

Is the fact that back in the 1970's someone (who was never identified) was going around with a chainsaw or hatchet or whatever and cutting down the billboards on I-94 (or maybe it was US 23) to return the countryside to its natural state--well, aside from the highway running through it.  Power to the people!


May 3rd, 2011 at 5:58 PM ^

Thanks for the research Section 1. If you can find out who actually was behind it that might be diary-worthy. However I think what you have right now isn't a smoking gun, just a phone call and a lot of editorial around it.

It's worth being on the board. But like I said, find out who actually put it up and leave a paper trail. You have the highest standard of anybody I know for other peoples' reporting; apply that standard to yourself and really do a job here and you'll be on the front page.


May 3rd, 2011 at 6:18 PM ^

...why we care who paid for it?

I swear, Section 1, I think pretty soon you're going to be calling for reporters to have sidenotes explaining the etymology of every polysyllabic word they use.  


May 3rd, 2011 at 6:53 PM ^

Why do you keep invoking Brian's name into your argument? I don't recall the part where he said "I don't think anyone paid for this billboard!" or "I bet Michigan fans weren't involved!" This mission to out the billboard as a CBS venture or a Spartan plant is yours and yours alone. It's pretty clear that no one else cares.

Section 1

May 3rd, 2011 at 7:34 PM ^

He gave the billboard "five derps out of five."  I agree.  His view counts, even more than mine.  This is his blog.  He is, rightfully, the lead opinionator.

Brian seemed bothered at the prospect that Michigan fans (as had been reported, all over the 'net) did this.  I thought it might be a nice idea to ease Brian's mind on that.  There is zero evidence that "Michigan fans" did this, and at least some evidence that "Spartan fans" did, insofar as a Spartan fan runs the metro Detroit sales office of CBS Outdoor billboards, and by his own account, he did something very, very similar with the 34-24 billboards, just a few months ago.

I see lots of topic-titles that I might not care about.  For me, that's easy; I just don't click on them.


May 3rd, 2011 at 10:21 PM ^ relieved you cracked this case! On behalf of Brian, and the entire MGoBlogerati, let me say, thank you Section 1 for your outstanding work! Let's make sure we spread the word across all of our social media resources -- Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, MySpace, LinkedIn (plus all the other ones that I'm not cool enough to know about) -- that in stark contrast to the diabolical presumptiveness of Matt Hinton Michigan fans do not, in fact derp!


May 3rd, 2011 at 6:52 PM ^

The Sparty nonsense aside, this whole thing can be boiled down to two sentences:

The Internet assumed that Michigan fans paid for the sign. It's a reasonable assumption, though 100% unsubstantiated by actual facts, so all the places that say Michigan fans did it should qualify it with allegedly/supposedly/likely. 

That is all. If the OP had said that, it would have been worthwhile and interesting. Otherwise, it is mostly speculative, probably incorrect drivel. Which, to be fair, is a lot of stuff on the MGoBoard, and most of the stuff on the message boards of other schools.


May 18th, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^

What are you talking about?  Who cares about the billboard?  I don't care you put it up, who paid for it, who said what about doesn't make the slightest difference in the world.  The sad part is that someone (you) remains so concerned about it.  That's my only point and you've (again) proven me correct.


May 3rd, 2011 at 8:09 PM ^

maybe it's just clever marketing be it purposeful or not.  that picture has been bandied about on several media sources and has been seen by far more eyes than have driven by it.

Michigan Moonman

May 3rd, 2011 at 10:32 PM ^

I was listening to a sports talk show on the way in to work today.  The hosts were talking about this billboard and asked the listeners to call in with their ideas for a billboard.  Very few people called in, but I thought it would be fun to hear from my MgoBlog friends.

I cannot start a thread, but perhaps someone else wants to use this idea to start a thread.

My billboard would be located on the Michigan/Ohio boarder and would be visible to those who are leaving Ohio and entering the beautiful state of Michigan.  It would be a blue backgroud with maize letters.  It would have a nicely proportioned block M and a picture of Brady Hoke.  The writing would read, "This is Michigan!" (as taken from his press conference when he was introduced as our new head football coach).

What would your billboard look like?


January 16th, 2013 at 5:44 PM ^

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