Painting a Town: Graffiti vs. Advertising

Graffiti and advertising both are forms of art designed to capture attention in a public space. Where do the similarities end, and the differences begin? It starts with the goals.

People have various opinions of graffiti. Many would say it is nothing more than vandalism and a disgrace to the side of a building, sign, or wall, others may see it was a hidden work of art in an unlikely place. Jacksonville is a great downtown area to analyze this. Traverse downtown and you will see incredible paintings on the side of Burrito Gallery and Chomp Chomp, as well as “tagging” at the top of some of the tallest buildings. Many artists’ motives will vary, but more often than not an artist’s main goal is to turn heads. To capture the attention and cut through all the noise of the day is the ultimate win for a street artist.

Advertising strives to accomplish a similar goal. On average, a typical American sees over 3,000 ad per day. Cutting through the clutter is an art form in itself. A lot of graffiti tagging can be washed away, or painted over. Why? Due to the fact that it has no right to be there, where advertising on the other hand, has paid placement. This allows really terrible ads to have a flight time for as long as they are funded. There are times we have all wished we could wipe away a bad ad and simply tell someone “You’re doing it wrong…”

Advertising and graffiti are two art forms that come from highly different motives, but end up having similar goals. Although many graffiti artists want to make a statement against corporations, who tend to be the biggest advertisers, both parties want to paint the town in one way or another.