Tag Archives: viral advertising

Advertising & Graffiti

Defenders of graffiti often point at the visual pollution of advertising, arguing that only economics separates the two and that graffiti if often more aesthetic than advertising.

Increasingly advertising campaigns are using graffiti as part of their campaign. In 2007 there were stencils advertising for the Borat movie in Lt. LaTrobe St, in Richmond and in Centre Place. The publicists for the Borat movie thought that they could grab some hip free space but were greatly mistaken. Their ad was quickly covered up with “No Ad” in marker pen and “John Howard killed the Glasshouse” in a purple and yellow stencil. This zone of “extreme tolerance” towards graffiti is not going to tolerate the invasion of advertising. The advertising dollar might rule in the rest of the world but its images will be resisted in temporarily autonomous zones.

Well, that is the idealistic version but some advertising does sneak through. The first stencil graffiti that I saw in Melbourne was the 1984 publicity campaign for the movie, Dogs in Space. That publicity campaign was a copy of the graffiti publicity campaigns that bands had used earlier (there is the notable use of stencil images from Crass and Black Flags).

There are lots of viral advertising campaigns employing street art techniques, including advertising stickers posing as street art. One of the most sophisticated of these was Adidas’s Zero Tag campaign (see my blog entry and the comments on Lex Injusta) From the comments it appeared that this advertising campaign did not impress many street artists.

Fly-posting of posters is just as illegal as paste-ups/wheat-pasting but because they are advertising they are tolerated more than art – there aren’t organizations against fly-posting but there are anti-graffiti organizations. The poster gangs of Melbourne quickly paste over any material that encroaches on their territory. The current use of chalk stencil advertising on footpaths is just as illegal as fly posting and graffiti. It has been used increasingly in 2009 to advertise universities, soft drinks, the Dali exhibitions, plays and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases.

Advertising for the play "Optimism"

Advertising for the play "Optimism"

The street artists are advertising themselves in their work, the signature tags write large. In 2007 there were lot of myspace addresses amongst the art in Hosier Lane. And, in the case of legit legal works the image will advertise business that commissioned the work and supplied the paint. Street art has always been a form of alternative advertising. Jason Dax Woodward points out that “the standard size of a billboard is much like that of the side of a train.” (Woodward, How to read Graffiti , p.12)



Thanks to everyone who has been commenting on the blog or sending me invites to exhibition. Sorry that I haven’t been able to see all the exhibitions that I have been invited to. Here is some news from my inbox about some artists that I have mentioned in this blog.

Alisa Teletovic has a painting featured in House and Garden magazine (MAY 2008 on p.71) See my interview with Alisa Teletovic. The painting is one of many illustrating the article, “Picture this”, by Betty Baboujon. The article is the consumer’s perspective of buying original medium-priced art from online art galleries.

Melbourne-based sculptor Daniel Dorall is crossing the Tasman to exhibiting Lemmings at The Kiosk/The Physics Room in Christchurch, New Zealand. The sculpture series Lemmings was previously exhibited at Mailbox 141

In my review of Lemmings I wrote:  The small space perfectly suits Daniel Dorall’s miniatures and he has used the separate mailboxes like panels in a comic strip. Soldiers walk through the grass on increasingly tall plinths with Dorall’s typical architectural foundation layout. In the final panel they fall down a pit with other dead soldiers. There is a red cross amongst the subterranean labyrinthine complex connected to the pit but none of the soldiers have made it, not even close.” Read my interview with Daniel Dorall

I’m not sure what to do about the viral advertising from Adidas; I was taken in by the humor, I did update my posting as soon as I became aware that the Zero-Tag campaign is advertising. Kano172 posted an excellent comment on my posting, Lex Injusta – please read it. Boycotting Adidas would be an appropriate response to their exploitation of the current popularity of street art. There is a lot of commercial use of street art, some of it by the artists themselves, some in respectful commercial partnership that benefits the artist, and the worst that simply exploits street artists.

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