November 25 | 2019

Don’t you just love it when it’s not digital?

Author: Susan Vugts

Rain or shine, whatever the season, the painters of Colossal Media can be found across New York creating beautiful pieces of handmade advertising for a wide variety of brands. With a brush, lots of paint, and precision-focus they transform white walls into giant murals and create outdoor ads that actually get noticed. But why is this handmade form of traditional outdoor media so popular in an age where everything turns digital? 


Old fashion is the new cool

The tradition of hand-painted advertising resonates well with the Gen Z, paradoxically the same generation that prides itself in avoiding advertising. But ironically, it’s Gen Z and Instagram culture that’s largely responsible for the growing success of this “old-fashioned” form of advertisements. 

Discussing the secret of their success, Maeve Roughton, Director of Creative Strategy at Colossal Media simply says: “There’s something nostalgic and hard-fought in hand-painted outdoor advertising. We believe in tradition, craftsmanship, curiosity, and we’ve found a lot of brands and people believe in those values too.” 


Authenticity with a brush

Being the oldest form of advertising, hand-painted branding breathes craftsmanship, authenticity, and effort. This has also been associated with other bygone trends that come with Do It Yourself and Gen Z culture. Roughton continues: “We are proud to be the ones who revived this forgotten art.”

It is not only the finished work which is appreciated, but also its production. With an estimated 10,800 brush strokes per wall, hand-painted ads require a lot of effort. This is clearly reflected in the finished piece on the wall, and that hard work is noticed and appreciated by its audience. It is more like art than advertising – and as a result, gets photographed and shared.


Creating social landmarks

Colossal’s murals are designed to create this on-the-street engagement, making for a great visual and impactful post on Instagram. In this way, a physical piece of advertising can multiply its reach and gain a much larger audience virtually than just the ones that experienced it in ‘real-life’.   

By changing the murals every four weeks, there is a continuous new flock of people visiting them. Some of the walls have become as much a landmark in New York City as the Brooklyn Bridge or the Empire State Building. 


Doritos - Colossal

To further increase engagement, some walls now have QR codes to provide more information and a richer experience, whether through AR, geofencing, or drive-to-web applications. Roughton gives an example: “We painted a wall for New York Road Runners in Williamsburg and attached an AR experience to it. People got to learn interesting facts about the racecourse, and it became the perfect selfie backdrop for everyone who wanted a post-race picture with their medal.” 


Humanizing marketing

In this digital era of ad blockers, infinite scrolls and programmatic marketing, hand-painted outdoor media is able to engage a generation with compelling advertising that is not actually seen as advertising. 

As Roughton concludes: “We live in an ever-changing, hyper-evolving world. Hand paint goes against the grain. We are able to humanize the marketing experience by transforming advertising into art.”



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