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The rise of hand-painted advertising

Global Street Art partnered with Talon to produce this amazing Visual Craft award winning creative

All across London, from Stoke Newington to Brixton, you can spot the charming remnants of a bygone era in advertising. Faded ’ghost signs’, as they’re called, painted high up on buildings, hark back to an era when out-of-home advertising was very different to the standardized formats of paper-and-paste that came after, and long before we thought to advertise outside on giant screens.

A little over a decade ago, hand-painted advertising started a resurgence globally. Today, supported by social media and other factors, hand-painted advertising – or ’HPA’ as we call it – shows no signs of slowing.

As the UK leaders in HPA, Global Street Art Agency has picked up several The Drum Awards and even more award nominations in the past two years. We’ve grown rapidly in part because we integrated several functions within one agency: media owner, production specialist, creative agency and digital content house.

In truth, much of our growth has been a byproduct of our unwavering dedication to our mission ’to live in painted cities’. We did not set out with the intention of becoming an agency – our early efforts were book publishing and running a gallery, both an uphill battle at the time. As the audience for street art has grown and our artist friends’ profiles have grown too, perhaps those models might fare better today.

Instead, through a series of chance events, we found our agency model and we haven’t looked back. When we asked our clients recently why they liked HPA as a medium, some of the responses that came back were: HPA looks ’stop-you-in-your-tracks’ great; is human-powered, which means a lot in the digital age; is steeped in traditional painting techniques; makes great content for social media and is shared by passers-by. Let’s not forget too that it helps working artists make a living. That’s a smorgasbord of positives!

The community mindset that we started with has been crucial to our success – when you are high atop a scaffold exposed to the blustery British elements, it really helps to remember that each spray of paint is literally and figuratively part of a bigger picture, pushing our mission forwards.

We have not lost our community mindset and we never will. Far from it! Aside from our wonderful Art for Estates Program, which has organized over a hundred murals in housing estates across London at no cost to councils or residents, we also held the first London Mural Festival in 2020. Operating carefully under social distancing, London Mural Festival involved 200 superb artists, painted more than 70 large murals and achieved and earned media reach around a billion. We were the main sponsors and we look forward to doing it again in future (although not every year or it wouldn’t be so special).

It would be easy to say that I love what I do and (mostly) it’s true; I do! Each mural we paint involves dedication, craft and grit. But that’s beside the point – our dedication to our bigger mission is a powerful motivator and sees us through the tough times.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen clients shift from asking for one mural as an afterthought to asking for several murals around the UK, and internationally (which we also do – we’re Global Street Art Agency after all).

We also regularly speak with clients that want to explore new techniques and materials. Building upon sign-painting techniques, our team now works with spray paint, special builds, UV lighting and other techniques to help our murals stand out even more. HPA today is sitting at an exciting intersection between creative experimentation and OOH messaging.

Today, Global Street Art Agency is the UK’s number one mural-painting company, leading the growth in HPA and painting more murals than anyone else. Driven by our mission ’to live in painted cities’, it’s a great feeling to count our clients as allies on this journey.

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