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Are billboards the new online dating? In Utah, they might be

By Lauren Bennett, | Posted - Jul. 1, 2019 at 9:44 p.m.

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — By now, most people have seen or heard about the “LDS Millionaire” billboards that popped up along the Wasatch Front earlier this year to advertise a mystery bachelor looking for love.

Inspired by these billboards, one BYU graduate decided to create his own.

Two billboards, one in Pleasant Grove and the other in Orem, went up in early June to advertise why people should consider dating Braden Sharp, a single 24-year-old BYU graduate living in Provo.

“If the millionaire doesn’t work out, here’s your chance to settle for much, much less,” the billboard reads. It also includes a website that gives visitors “every possible reason to date that twenty-something guy with a half-decent smile you glimpsed on your way home from work.”

Sharp told he had always wanted to be on a billboard — it was even on his bucket list. So when Qualtrics, the company he works for, offered to pay a bonus for an employee “experience,” things seemed to fall into place.

Qualtrics provides the experience as a benefit to employees in lieu of a Christmas bonus, Sharp explained. The money has to be spent on something the employee wouldn’t normally do that would get them out of the office, he said.

Sharp said his coworkers were “hyped” about his billboard plan. To ensure most of his coworkers got to see the signs, he aimed to put them along the most popular commute routes to their building. The board in Orem is located near the University Parkway off-ramp on southbound I-15, and the other alongside northbound I-15 right before the Pleasant Grove Boulevard exit.

The billboards cost $50 a day, and Sharp said he plans to keep them up until he runs out of the company money.

Since the billboards went up around June 3, Sharp said he’s received about 400 emails and 18,000 hits on his website — which is more than he ever expected.

“I expected people to pass by and see it and think it was funny,” Sharp explained. “I didn’t expect that many people to actually take the time and go to the website, and I definitely didn’t expect so many people to just email me and say thanks for the laugh.”

Sharp noted he plans to reply to all the emails that were sincere (not spam), but it takes awhile to get through them.

A viral tweet about his billboards received 16,000 likes and nearly 2,000 retweets.

He also said he never expected “legitimate dating pursuits” to come of the signs, but that’s exactly what happened. He’s met up with four people he met through the ads and said the dates were a little awkward at first.

“They went exactly how you would expect a date with a stranger you met via a billboard to go,” Sharp said laughing. “They actually ended up all being really, really fun, but it definitely was a weird first meeting.”

Sharp’s tried his luck with online dating apps as well, but said he’s been more successful with the billboards so far.

“This just gave me a little bit more freedom, and I think with a little more freedom I can express myself better and come across as a more interesting person,” he said.

Although he noted it’s definitely “been more expensive” than online dating.

Past the romantic responses, Sharp said he’s also received an overwhelming amount of people reaching out to tell him the signs simply made their day.

“There have been a lot of positive, completely non-romantic interactions that have come from it, which has been a really, really exciting thing for me,” he said.

Some have told Sharp renting your own billboard is a bold move, but he doesn’t see it that way. Ironically, he feels more comfortable advertising himself on a large and public space rather than trying to go up to strangers and start a conversation.

At the end of the day, Sharp said he did it “for the heck of it,” and is happy it’s brought some happiness to people.

“You know life isn’t always fun, so if I could brighten someone's day by making fun of myself online, I’m all about that,” he said.

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