How We Brought Clean Graffiti To Life

How We Brought Clean Graffiti To Life

Hello! This is Paula Bartlett, one of the owners of The Savage Way.  I write these blogs but today wanted to share the story of how we brought Clean Graffiti to life from my perspective. Enjoy.

We get asked daily, “What exactly is Clean Graffiti?” Ten years in and we’re still fortunate enough to explain this disruptive outdoor advertising medium to people. And it’s just as exciting every time! However, I don’t think we’ve ever shared how Clean Graffiti came about for us. So here is the story of how we brought Clean Graffiti to life.

Prior to The Savage Way, Torrie worked in the marketing and advertising industry. She spent 10 years in media buying for a few different employers. She was responsible for managing budgets and getting as much unique exposure for her clients as possible. So her brain was always thinking in ads; looking at billboards, magazine ads, bus ads, etc. Well one day she was pressure washing the driveway at her parent’s house and free-handed the name “Savage.” (pressure washing the dirt away to leave the “cleaned” letters showing). Immediately her brain thought, “That would be a great ad, but it would have to be crisp and follow brand standards.”

She did what we all do when we have an idea and Googled it, sure enough, there was an artist in Europe (Paul Curtis aka Moose) who was pressure washing art onto old, dirty walls. The results were beautiful. Using mother nature to create art was a revolutionary idea to her. Fast forward a few years, The Savage Way started. At the time we were a marketing agency helping clients with social media, business openings, community engagement, etc. Torrie casually mentioned this sidewalk advertising idea to me one day and I said, “What are we doing?! This is incredible. Let’s do that!” Immediately we started researching and trying to see how we could bring this idea to life. I remember countless late nights in Torrie’s loft in the NoDa neighborhood in Charlotte, NC where we would just dream and talk about how we would do this out-of-the-box idea.

But before we could even work out all the details, an opportunity knocked on our door. We were introduced to a marketing legend in Charlotte, Blair Primis. He was the VP of Marketing for a privately owned orthopedic surgeons office. Blair was open to new ideas and always looking for ways to make his brand stand out. And I’ll never forget sitting down with him to pitch some ideas and seeing the light in his eyes and smile on his face when we told him our idea. “Genius,” he said. “I want the biggest option you’ve got.” WHAT?! To have someone believe in your idea when you haven’t even physically done a campaign yet… it was the exact boost that we needed.

We left that meeting saying give us a few months to figure this thing out and we will be ready to go. Torrie and I worked with such passion and excitement to bring this idea to fruition. When the day came to see our stencil (the first iteration) being pressure washed onto the sidewalk, we did a little happy dance. This was real. Clean Graffiti was a thing. A major brand was paying us to advertise on this untapped asset that Mother Nature created. It was all so thrilling.

No one tells you how tricky it is to start a business that is disruptive to the space. No one was doing what we were doing and it was a lot of trial and error to land where we did. To say we were green was an understatement. We went through so many iterations of the stencil, how we selected spots, how many spots to offer, and how to price this service no one knew they wanted. But selling this to clients was something that Torrie did have experience in. Her decade of media buying allowed us to know what a client would be looking for. It gave us insight into crafting these packages that could compete with billboard buys and other outdoor advertising opportunities.

So we kept going and focused on selling Clean Graffiti to clients. Along the way we have carved our own path and had the chance to really grow this industry. One of our European counterparts, Jim Bowes, happened to be in Nashville, TN early on and made a road trip from Charlotte, NC to chat with him on his experiences doing “Reverse Graffiti” (what he called it). It was so fun to talk shop with someone who got it and was dealing with similar hurdles. Read more about it in our blog from 2014. I never thought in a million years that Torrie and I would be strategically cleaning sidewalks for a living. Haha – it makes us laugh every time that we see dirty concrete, “Oh, thats a fantastic canvas!”

That was over ten years ago. Since then, we’ve completed work in 70+ cities across the US including Los Angeles, CA, Portland, OR, Vancouver, WA, New York, NY, Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Baltimore, MD, Austin, TX, Houston, TX, and countless other cities and towns across the country. We’ve worked with companies/brands like Diet Coke, The Rolling Stones, Carolina Panthers, Truist Bank, The ACC Tournament, Novant Health, county & state agencies and so many more.

Now you may be asking why do our clients use Clean Graffiti? There are a myriad of reasons, but a few to note:

  1. Unexpected: In our overstimulated world, seeing a message on the ground is novel and captures attention.
  2. Longevity: Spots can last from one month to over 6 months, depending on the type of dirt, weather, traffic, etc.
  3. Creative: Using dirt to create a brand message is so far out of the norm that it doesn’t fit in a box.
  4. It’s Just Water: Our medium is eco-friendly in that is is made just using water – no paint, acid, bleach or etching.
  5. Temporary: Clients love it for an event-driven ad campaign where we remove the spots after the event date.
  6. Impactful: The sidewalk is an untapped resource that allows for brand awareness, inspiration or event-driven info where it’s never been before.

We always love telling the story of how we brought Clean Graffiti to life. We believe in this medium and know that our innovation is sparking creative ideas and sending out inspiration all of the time. We’re ready when you are to clean some sidewalks!

Creative Uses of Clean Graffiti

Creative Uses of Clean Graffiti

We love all of the creative uses of Clean Graffiti that we can offer our clients. From general brand awareness campaigns to feel-good inspirational messages on the sidewalk, the possibilities are vast with this medium. We wanted to showcase a few of our favorite creative uses from over the years. Maybe this will inspire your next campaign with us.

For those that don’t know, Clean Graffiti is an advertising and messaging medium that The Savage Way has been offering for over 10 years now. We’ve been in 70+ markets across America and we continue to be the leaders in the U.S. in this space. Also known as Reverse Graffiti, Clean Graffiti is created using a stencil, pressure washer and naturally dirty sidewalks. We use high-pressure water to clean a message onto the sidewalk. We are not painting, spraying any chemicals or altering the integrity of the sidewalk in any way. It’s just water. 🙂 Check out some frequently asked questions here.

Now on to the creative uses of Clean Graffiti that we have loved over the years.

Tend Dentistry: New York City: The folks at Tend Dentistry in the Flatiron District in Manhattan came to us with this cheeky play-on-words that we could make into Clean Graffiti. The fact that we are both just cleaning away dirt (aka plaque) was just perfect. Love when brands can get playful and fun with their advertising.

OrthoCarolina: Multi-cities in North Carolina: OrthoCarolina had been a client of ours for a while and we had done tons of branding campaigns together (check out past project blogs for more details).  However, as a group of private orthopedic surgeons who specialize in fixing broken bones, we thought of this clever “Watch Your Step” Clean Graffiti campaign. The idea was while we were out executing campaigns and we saw dangerous, broken sidewalks, we would put down this safety message for pedestrians or cyclists brought to you by OrthoCarolina. Just a subtle reminder that *if* you did need a bone specialist, you would know who to call.

(Left) Greenpeace #IStand4Solar in Charlotte, NC: The global non-profit, Greenpeace, asked us to create an impactful Clean Graffiti campaign for the Charlotte market. We wanted to do something that was not only a directive (stand here and notice) but told the passerby to use on social media (using the #). We saw great interaction with the Clean Graffiti which led users to learn more about the Greenpeace mission – to use peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

(Right): NC Department of Transportation, Watch For Me Campaign in small beach towns in NC: This was a campaign that we ran for several years that focused on pedestrian and cyclist safety, Watch For Me NC. We put these down across coastal beach towns that saw a huge influx of tourists in the summer months. The NCDOT gave us specific data that pinpointed where vehicles crashed with pedestrians that either ended in an accident or fatality. There are such limited advertising opportunities in these small, rural towns, so Clean Graffiti was not only a viable option, but it was welcomed as an opportunity to actually make meaningful communication with the community.

(Left) Not Just Coffee, Charlotte, NC: Not Just Coffee is a locally-owned coffee shop that came up the same time that The Savage Way did. We are friends with the owners and we pitched them the idea of Clean Graffiti with a play-on-words with their name. We know that everyone LOVES coffee and social media posts with anything coffee related always got great engagement, but NJC was so invested in the community that they were more than just a place to grab coffee. We came up with “Love People, Not Just Coffee.” Genius. We partnered with local artist, Matt Hooker, to help with the creative and this beautiful message was born!

(Right): #ExploreYour704 NoDa Brewing, OrthoCarolina in Charlotte, NC: #ExploreYour704 was an intricate idea that we came up with that included a Clean Graffiti “Scavenger Hunt,” huge mural on the side of a brewery, multiple vendors and a big launch party that encouraged walking. To say this was an unusual case study is an understatement. In fact, doing a Clean Graffiti scavenger hunt is not something we even offer, but we are obsessed with how we used dirty sidewalks to create a movement game, celebrate the city we live in and bring awareness to our clients at the same time. Read more about it in the blog.


So that’s a quick snapshot of some of the creative uses of Clean Graffiti over the years. Check out our instagram for more examples. We look forward to creating more marketing magic using our eco-friendly advertising alternative.

New Spring Moss Art Design for PARA CLT

New Spring Moss Art Design for PARA CLT

PARA CLT is a Charlotte hotspot known for great food, cocktails and gorgeous atmosphere. The owners wanted to bring a different experience to the Queen City and it absolutely gives Miami, New York or Las Vegas vibes. Para is short for ‘imparable’ which means unstoppable and that is what this restaurant is, it’s shaking up the game. They embraced bringing plants and art into their space from local creatives (aka us – The Savage Way) from the onset of their launch. Originally, we created a 12′ w x 8.5′ h gorgeous preserved Fern Wall with the PARA logo centered in gold to set the tone for the dining experience – lush, unexpected, unique. It even garnered a celebrity sighting or two.

The co-owners of PARA are always ones to keep people on their toes and it was time to do something fresh and new for the space. We were elated to be asked again to help bring some natural beauty into PARA. The restaurant group owners asked our team to create a piece that would reflect how we are all feeling about these wild times, and all are proud to showcase it. It’s a preserved reindeer moss piece called: Self Reflection: You are entirely up to you.

PARA CLT new Moss Art for their South End Charlotte restaurant.

More about the piece: 

Self Reflection: You are entirely up to you.

Look at yourself. Like truly stop and take a look in the mirror. Are you showing up daily how you want to? Are you doing your best? Are you using your time wisely? Are you taking care of your health? What in your life is holding you back? How can you be more present for others? What relationships can go deeper? These are the questions you need to answer to be able to better your circumstances. And the beautiful reality is that you get to decide.

You get to choose or choose again and again and again until the change that you dreamed of is your reality. You are entirely up to you. And as a collective, if we all look inward to better ourselves, then we can show up for others in such an authentic and beautiful way. This life will just get better and better the more self reflection we do.

Size: 12’ w x 8.5’ h, inset into the main dining wall | Moss: Preserved Reindeer Moss in four colors

More on the Spring Refresh at PARA CLT

Best of all, the PARA team just launched their spring menu, and it is heavenly. Check out these fresh dishes with TONS of options for gluten-free and vegan friends. Left: PARA CHAAT (chickpea, yogurt, pomegranate, masala chips, apple butter, mint, puffed rice) Middle: “POKE” (vegan, “feta,” watermelon, avocado, orange, seaweed, crisps) Right: BROCCOLI (edamame hummus, miso honey, peanut, boondi).
When you hit them up for the “Poke” dish, make sure to admire the new Moss Art and let us know what you think! More at 
Green Moss Walls by The Savage Way

Green Moss Walls by The Savage Way

Green Moss Walls are all the rage in interior design in 2023. There is something to be said for having the healing power of nature indoors and without any of the maintenance – it’s glorious. In fact, this is known in the industry as “Biophilic Design.”

The term Biophilic Design may be new to you but you’ve experienced it every single day without realizing it. Design industries are just now getting more intentional with it. Biophilic Design is someone’s innate attraction to nature and living things. It can be found in everything from architecture, landscaping, water features and pocket parks, to simply adding plants into a space or listening to elevator music that sounds like rain  – the list goes on and on. Our offering, Moss Art, is a great example of Biophilic Design. We are using elements of nature and bringing them into corporate office, small businesses, restaurants, banks, etc to help create the glorious effects of Mother Nature.

As you know, when you spend some time in the woods, go for a hike or just put your bare feet in the grass, a sense of calm comes over you. You feel like you can breathe a little easier. The world slows down and you stop to appreciate beauty at every turn. That is what we are doing with Moss Art – it’s calming, grounding, and beautiful to look at. You can notice something different every time you stare at a piece of our art.

We wanted to share some of our larger scale green moss walls that bring this Biophilic Design into interior spaces. We are so proud of this work.

Green Feature Wall: Truist Bank now has a 40′ long Moss Wall with custom signage on top.

Moss Walls with Neon Signs: Carolina Pharmacy (left) UNC Charlotte Dining Services (right).

Reindeer Moss Wall: The Oliver Apartment Complex in Charlotte, NC.

You don’t always have to cover a wall edge to edge with Moss to make an impact. We have found great success with using negative space, designing with a shape in mind when a “VE Option” is required (value engineered cost savings) or using a structure that already exists. If a green wall is desired, we can always find a way.

A variety of projects using existing wall features and moss: UNC Charlotte Dubois Center (top left) | Crowntown Cannabis (top right) | Forgotten Road Ales Greensboro (bottom left) | PARA Charlotte (bottom right).

Above: Both photos feature the work we did at Credit One Stadium in Charleston, SC. Three separate Green Moss Art installations were created. Even ceiling acoustical panels.

Mixed Moss Wall with Mushrooms: NoDa Canteen in Camp North End, Charlotte, NC.

Unique Green Walls: Damn Good Brands reindeer moss drip | Crave Dessert Bar in Asheville.

No matter how you design it, incorporating Moss Art into your space is a great way to bring life, grounded energy and interest into a space. If anything here inspires you, please reach out. Our team of artists are ready and excited to help bring your vision to life. (Email: [email protected])

RAIN CLT Uses Clean Graffiti for 2023 AIDS Walk

RAIN CLT Uses Clean Graffiti for 2023 AIDS Walk

Our friends at RAIN CLT utilized Clean Graffiti to help bring awareness to the upcoming AIDS Walk Charlotte event happening Saturday, May 6, 2023. We love to see organizations and companies use Clean Graffiti to help get a public health message out to the community. In fact, it is one of our favorite ways to use this medium. We are able to target an audience where they are walking and give them an unexpected message of encouragement or bring awareness to an event.

Clean Graffiti, aka pressure washed message of "Stomp Out Stigma. AIDS Walk Charlotte" on Charlotte, NC city sidewalk by The Savage Way.

The AIDS WALK brings the Charlotte community together to “stomp out” HIV stigma and raise funds for RAIN CLT. According to the RAIN website, “Every dollar raised stays in Charlotte to support the services and programs RAIN provides to people living with HIV and those at risk. For 31 years, RAIN has been empowering persons living with HIV and those at risk to be healthy and stigma free.”

AIDS WALK Charlotte continues to be the largest HIV fundraising walk in the Carolinas and since 1997 has raised over $3.3 million. That’s incredible! Stomping out the stigma when it comes to sexual health and HIV / AIDS awareness is so important and we are honored to be a part of helping to spread the message. The walk is roughly two miles long and takes the average person around 30 minutes to complete. This family affair fundraiser is open to all.

Location: Wells Fargo Atrium & Plaza, 301 S. Tryon Street
When: Saturday, May 6 9am – 12pm (Rain or shine)
Register: Here

Please check out the amazing work of RAIN CLT and make sure to sign up for the walk this weekend!