GreenGraffiti makes an impresson in Canada

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Chances are, the last thing that comes to mind when you think of graffiti is ‘clean’ or ‘environmentally sound,’ but GreenGraffiti might just change that. GreenGraffiti is an advertising company that uses graffiti to brand its messages all over sidewalks across this county, but there’s a twist. GreenGraffiti uses a template and high-pressure water to spray messages into a dirty sidewalk. The result is a cleaner sidewalk and a high-impact message. Their message is clear: clean is green!

The concept for GreenGraffiti originated when its owners were looking for a way to stand out from traditional forms of street advertising—such as posters and signs— which use up a tremendous amount of paper and create a lot of waste.

Canadian Jim Bowes wanted for an alternative way to get his clients’ messages out there, and founded GreenGraffiti in the Netherlands in 2007. He came up with the concept of cleaning the message out of dirt on concrete. This effectively takes away from the urban grime, not contributes to it. And the low-impact method of advertising is conducive to the environmentally responsible code of conduct of the company: the imprint of the message is maximized while the imprint on the environment in minimized.

I met with Canadian CEO, Mike Jansen, who elaborated on the philosophy behind GreenGraffiti. “We try and calculate the amount of carbon that goes into a project and then make sure that we are carbon negative, which means that we are going to compensate 150 per cent of the energy we use,” he says. “And then for the water consumption, we are helping to fund a rainwater harvesting program in Brazil.”

It was quite evident that their commitment to being ‘green’ was just as important to their business model as is making profits. “Giving back and compensating for our energy helps us to set our service apart from our competition and, in the long term, it’s going to be a competitive advantage,” explains Jansen.

Since its expansion to Canada, GreenGraffiti has quickly expanded its roster to include high-profile clients such as Dominos Pizza and Universal Music International. “The response has been incredible”, says Jansen. He adds that the sidewalk impressions from a campaign are really only one part of the bigger picture for their clients. “The real value added here is the positive PR they can gain from choosing a greener advertising alternative. We received a ton of media coverage for our recent Dominos campaign, and the story was picked up by Fox News. It really is a testament to how far a small idea can reach.”

With so many images competing for audiences in public spaces, the innovative concept of writing the message out of the dirt quickly drew the attention of companies and pedestrians alike. Some of the campaigns have included scavenger hunts, with prizes and coupons given out to people who send in photos of the images. Jansen tries to encourage his clients to keep in mind that they have an open canvas and these are ways to engage pedestrians in a way they haven’t been before. “The people in the street are very used to advertising,” he reasons, “so this inventive medium really helped give the campaign more traction, and people connect with it. It’s a refreshing reversal on the traditional form of marketing. I love seeing the reaction from people when they figure out what we’re doing. We get stopped all the time by people asking, ‘so, you’re just cleaning? Cool!’” After all, who doesn’t want to see their streets and sidewalks cleaned for a change?

GreenGraffiti has already launched campaigns in Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York and plans to keep working in more North American cities. With their refreshing take an old idea, GreenGraffiti is truly taking street marketing to a new place. As Jansen puts it, “At the end of the day we are cleaning and we’ve been expanding quite rapidly because it’s a new form of media. The sky is the limit in terms of being able to do designs in public spaces.” Or in this case, the street is the limit.

For more information on GreenGraffiti, please visit www.greengraffiti.com. While you’re there, check out their movies page to see them in action.

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