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:
- Unexpected: In our overstimulated world, seeing a message on the ground is novel and captures attention.
- Longevity: Spots can last from one month to over 6 months, depending on the type of dirt, weather, traffic, etc.
- Creative: Using dirt to create a brand message is so far out of the norm that it doesn’t fit in a box.
- It’s Just Water: Our medium is eco-friendly in that is is made just using water – no paint, acid, bleach or etching.
- Temporary: Clients love it for an event-driven ad campaign where we remove the spots after the event date.
- 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!