Reverse Graffiti in Downtown Boise Idaho

October 10, 2019
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    Watch Your Step In Downtown Boise

    Downtown Boise is an agglomeration of art and culture in a nice little package. Visitors can easily walk from Freak Alley to the Green Belt, from The Grove to 8th Street Marketplace, to any of the “must see” spots in the growing downtown cluster. It’s a great place to live, work, and create. I’m fortunate to be able to do all of these.  
    For years I’ve been pitching ideas to clients that would allow them to think outside the normal path of advertising. Generally using an often said, and even more often misunderstood phrase “guerrilla marketing”. It sounds fun, but it also sounds risky, even more so… dangerous.   The biggest reason, it can be controversial and often times just straight out fail. When something is designed to yank at someone’s brain, it can yank it in several directions. But when it pays off, it really pays off.   We have some big ideas and we’re always looking for clients with big chunks of courage and passion to let us execute them.   Then we found that client.   Recently we started working with Bodega Boise, a recently opened Bodega located at 10th and Main St. in downtown Boise. The moment you enter their door you notice their desire to stand out. Every inch from the floor to the ceiling has been carefully crafted and beautifully created. It’s also tremendously convenient considering the lack of food shopping available in the downtown area.   Our first pitch meeting was a bit of a creative idea dump. A majority of our clients are out of town, even more so out of the state. Often, it’s digital communications and email deliveries. This is a business where we get to shake a hand and deliver ideas in person. We overwhelmed them with the number of ideas. But we kinda knew we would. After they could take a moment to breathe them in and understand the potential of each, they got excited, did an ‘in person’ hand shake and we went to work.   Where to start? What can be done first? What fricken day is it?   It’s still summer, let’s see what that means?   Third on the list, reverse graffiti. It’s still summer, let’s start here.   What exactly is reverse graffiti? There’re a few different forms of it but essentially it is pressure washing areas of cement, brick, plaster, etc. to reveal clean spots leaving art or messages. This seemed like a perfect start for the bodega. In most part because there’s a lot of foot traffic downtown, and surprisingly most people who knew we had a bodega found it completely by accident on their journey to an alternate location.  

    With that, what’s the message?

      Throughout the month talked to several people to find out their thoughts on Bodega Boise. Generally, we heard the same responses over and over.   “We have a bodega?”   Followed with “What’s a bodega?”   There’s was a double learning curve here. People need to know where the thing was they didn’t know what it was. That’s easy.   After some creative thinking we were reminded how well Bodega Boise was in letting them know their location. It’s on their logo, 10th and Main Street. Send people to that block and they will find it.   Now we needed to let people know what a bodega was.   Me: “Hey Siri, what’s a bodega?   Siri: “A convenience store, convenience shop, or corner store is a small retail business that stocks a range of everyday items such as coffee, groceries, snack foods, confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco products, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines.”   Well, that was convenient. From there we wrote a few stencil copy ideas and worked with a local sign maker to have them laser cut. We used 1/8” aluminum in 2’x3’ rectangles. We knew a pressure washer over time would destroy vinyl cut outs. We were planning on beating these up a bit.   Our goal was to hit as many locations around downtown as we could, as fast as we could. That was going to require a fully mobile pressure washer. A few calls and we found one.   downtown boise reverse graffiti 4000 PSI, 500-gallon tank, gas motor, and a hot water heater if we need a little extra clean power. We strapped it to the SUV and away we went.   We had mapped out a route of attack a few days prior. Found corners and other locations that would be perfect to leave some Bodega love. Downtown Boise is always going through a bit of construction change. When we started our route we noticed that now many of the locations we had scouted out were blocked off for road work. Well, it’s time to just improv.   One of the things you’ll notice in Boise, assuming that you’ll ever need to make clean spots on sidewalks, is how clean the streets are here. Finding a dirty piece of cement is a lot harder than you’d think. Our first few attempts made for little show. Barely a shade lighter. It shouldn’t be this hard to find filth.   sidewalk art boise idaho After a few more attempts we hit pay-dirt, literally. We also rotated through different nozzle heads to find which one worked best. We were now set and ready to clean. For the next few hours we drove all over the downtown area, jumping out and leaving our mark all over town. We had it down to a routine you’d think we’d been doing for years. The rain didn’t even stop us. Clearly, I was already soaked so a few extra water droplets weren’t going to slow us down. At midnight we called it quits. Our job here was done.   The next day we went out to view our work. We were happy with the results. A few friends excitedly texted us saying they walked by one and sent us pictures. It’s been nearly a month since we sprayed, and we can still see many of them downtown. We’ll be back to the sidewalks soon. With new messages. New ideas. We also have new guerrilla marketing ideas in store for the Bodega. Our goal is to educate everyone near 10th and Main to what a bodega actually is.   One sidewalk at a time.

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