You think urban advertising is ugly and annoying? Not any more! In Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, outdoor advertising is becoming a form of art, with huge commercial campaigns that are hand-painted on brick walls across the area — just like in the old days.
Brands these days consider the city as an interesting advertising platform, allowing them to connect to specific target groups at the local level. In one of the world’s coolest neighborhoods though, lousy plastic banners are not good enough. As a brand you not only have to show that you care about the neighborhood and its unique style and history, but also about the aesthetically minded audiences that live and work there. Bringing about hand-painted campaigns as the next trend in urban advertising. Ray-Ban, for instance, is running a huge 50-feet wide campaign along one of Williamsburg’s industrial business walls. The company is not unique to this trend, and businesses such as MasterCard, Lyft and Wyeth are also happy to spend their marketing money on painting the walls of this part of the city.
There are three local conditions that explain why this trend thrives here and now in Williamsburg. First of all, advertisements painted directly onto buildings fall outside the city’s tough limits on billboards. Moreover, hand-painted advertising builds upon a huge graffiti and street art tradition in Williamsburg brands love to be associated with. Lastly, these ads play the ‘crafts card’, showing that advertising is a craft from a bygone era, based on the history of hand-painted billboards of the past. This ultimately appeals to Brooklyn’s massive group of craft enthusiasts, which bring to life the city’s current reputation.
To create a medium-sized ad, a team of two painters have to work three full days, according to a Colossal Media employee who was busy painting a billboard on a wall in Williamsburg. Colossal Media is the leading company for hand-painted outdoor advertising in New York City. They also cover over 100 fully-permitted locations in other cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. The company takes control of the entire process, from getting permission to use the wall and through to the actual paint job.
Colossal Media is not the only company working in the niche industry of painted advertising. Overall Murals is a comparable business that offers brands the same urban painting treat. They refer to their profession as a combination of “several seemingly unrelated skills that involve art, construction, law, marketing, real estate, rigging, and even amateur meteorology.” Besides maintaining a portfolio of both permanent and per-usage wallscapes and streetscapes, Overall also offers custom scouting of new mural spaces for clients.
With all this effort, hand-painted outdoor advertising is of course much more expensive compared to standard billboards. Companies pay upwards of $150,000 for a mural which may only last several months, according to Crains New York. Regardless, in a city as competitive as New York, and in a neighborhood like Williamsburg, examples like this prove that being cool is worth the price tag.