Saturday, December 10, 2011

Going Guerrilla at the Street

by Abigail Berkley

Across the world there has been a proliferation of street guerrilla marketing. In Santiago Chile wall after wall is covered in colourful graffiti. Unitas advertising agency used this in their new promotion of Faber-Castell pencil crayons. Walls covered in graffiti appear to be peeled back to uncover a line of colourful pencils laying in a row.

In Copenhagen, Denmark the Bates Y&R agency performed a stint for the 4x4 Jeep. They traced out parking spots in unconventional parts of the city to display that Jeeps really are off-road vehicles.

This trend goes further than companies; even government entities have employed this marketing tactic. In Auckland, New Zealand street chalk was placed specifically to encourage pedestrians to make safe choices on main roads, while promoting the number of road crashes that involve pedestrians. The picture of shark-infested waters was created on the ground with the captioning “Don’t Step Into Danger. In Auckland city over 70% of road crashes involving pedestrians occur on main roads.” with the Auckland City Council logo painted beside it.

These forms of marketing, although different, share similar characteristics and purpose. Part of their effectiveness stems from their unexpected presentation. Each ad appears in targeted areas of the city, but on "media" where you do not expect to see advertisements: the ground, city walls, and places used by street artists. Some street art has gotten very popular too. For example, the popularity of some street art has attracted international attention (e.g. Bansky's work). His work and the work of other street artists have yet to be completely commercialized by the re-selling of prints. Street Art is innately cool. It is exciting, it breaks conventions and it breaks the rules. By appearing as street art, Guerrilla street marketing automatically becomes attention grabbing and absorbs all the excitement and edginess that its non-commercialized counter-part is endowed with.

It is easy to understand why marketing and advertising firms would then want to take advantage of this new method of contact with their consumers. Textbook after journal after newspaper has repeated how congested the marketing world has become, and how consumers are subjected to thousands of advertisements on a daily basis. The problem has always been “how do we grab their attention now,” and street guerrilla marketing has started to become the answer. Not only is it attention grabbing, it stimulates discussion, people talk about “that cool thing they saw on their walk to work.” They share it with their friends, they take pictures of it, thus creating this exponential force that reaches a greater amount of eyes and ears than just the people that walk by it. Marketing firms have a great advantage as it can be difficult at times to decipher whether a piece is authentic street art or a marketing ploy. Guerrilla street marketing has yet to hit its peak, it has not yet been overused and abused. In the next couple of years this method of marketing will become more prevalent as it is a short-term solution for stealthily grabbing consumers’ attention.


  1. Unconventional ads are attention getting. I remember seeing a Jeep "driving" up a skyscraper. Everyone stopped to gawk.

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  3. I agree with just about everything you said, Abigail. Thanks for your article; great pictures.

    I'm an artist myself and while I often have the urge to produce creative artwork like this (marketing-rooted or not), I'm always hesitant because it is, after all, breaking the law in most cases [except maybe a government-funded campaign with appropriate permissions].

    I think it could be added that this kind of guerilla marketing is not for every brand; depending on the personality, this 'cool' stuff should fit with an edgy, modern brand that wants to show its creativity. I'm not sure, for example, this tactic would fit with a brand that portrays class, timelessness, and elegance. Like it or not, using the tactic (like any other promotional strategy) says something itself about your brand and its values.