Ad campaign makes a clean impression

Pedestrians at the intersection of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue may have noticed a little less urban grime on Toronto sidewalks lately.

The clean-up comes from a teaser ad campaign that uses a stencil and a high pressure water hose to power spray the words Cultivate Grace into the sidewalk of one of the busiest intersections of the country. The stencil is put on dirty pavement and what’s left behind is the company’s message, burned clean to expose the original face of the sidewalk.

The carbon neutral technology comes from a Netherlands-based ad agency called GreenGraffiti and has been brought to Canada for the first time by communications company Fisheye. The ‘Cultivate Grace’ campaign has a final message that will be revealed on the morning of Tuesday, April 21.

Andreas Duess, a partner at Fisheye, said the client’s identity and the remainder of the message can’t be revealed until then. He also said the proximity to Earth Day, on April 22, is simply a pleasant coincidence: “You have to wait until Tuesday, I’m so sorry,” he said.

The build up of the campaign is similar to last year’s much-hyped ‘Obay’ ads, which turned out to be a marketing strategy for Ontario colleges, and Cadbury’s ‘release the goo’ billboard at Yonge-Dundas Square last month, which featured a giant Creme Egg waiting to explode.

In this case Duess explained the idea for this new environmentally-conscious brand of advertising came from a desire to reclaim the streets.

“It’s borne out of the graffiti movement,” Duess said. “Graffiti is defacing – whatever you want to call it, if it’s done without permission, you’re defacing somebody’s property. So a number of graffiti artists came up with using dirt as a medium, and rather than defacing, making an artistic statement about the state of our cities.”

The message, eventually at the mercy of hordes of Toronto pedestrians,  is expected to return to its original grimey state within two to three weeks, although Duess pointed out that even the disappearance of the ad is part of the green message.

“It doesn’t get cleaned away, it doesn’t fade away, it gets dirtied away,” he said. “Which again, makes a statement about how our cities operate, how much grime there is.”

Filed by Laura Godfrey