Global Street Art

Lasting impressions: lessons from hand-painted advertising

Lasting impressions. This isn’t a term I throw around lightly. In fact, I suggest it represents the pinnacle of advertising effectiveness for category leaders.

If we think about mental availability as a continuum, with prompted Awareness as the first phase, Salience as the second, and Fame as the holy grail (as per Binet & Field’s The Long and Short of it), I believe it’s the role of lasting impressions to reach this upper echelon. 

From my experience, Fame can not be achieved by piling millions of “average impressions” on top of each other. “Impressions” are not created equally. A million impressions on a schedule could deliver audiences anything from a forgettable yawn, to a fly-swatting snarl, to a positive likeable feeling of “OK”.

And, very occasionally, when the media and creative chime perfectly together, a memorable, sometimes unforgettable, moment of WOW. 

Perhaps I’m just an advertising romantic but I hold the belief that human creativity has the power to make “all things new” in a world preoccupied with “all new things”.

The power of creativity: why murals drive FAME

With a refreshing combination of skill and scale, artists are summoning attention with eye-popping, jaw-dropping, spine-tingling murals. Often delighting audiences with an unmissable “visual shout”.

Since joining Global Street Art, I’ve learned that environment, craft and relevance all have a linked role to play as share of voice amplifiers when bringing brilliant creative ideas to life.

With 15-plus years of mainstream out-of-home advertising and 5000-plus “non mural” media plans under my belt, I was genuinely confounded when I saw the way people stopped with genuine interest to really look at hand-painted ads.

Testing with System1 Group has shown that murals deliver significantly higher levels of emotional intensity than other static formats. 

Our recent campaign for Manchester City and PUMA, to celebrate the launch of the 2023/24 Home Kit, scored an incredible 5.8 Star rating among the T/A of Man City Fans using the System1 Group’s testing tool.

“Murals really swing the bat for emotional intensity. In the tests we have conducted vs other static formats, hand painted advertising exhibits the strongest potential share gain.”

Andrew Tindall, global partnerships director, System1 Group

The effectiveness sweet spot

I believe murals hit this sweet spot in effectiveness for several reasons. The first is that unique environments drive unique behaviours. 

An important quirk is that each mural wall is totally individual. A bespoke shape and size with its own charm, eccentricities and individual characteristics.

Mural locations are the non-conformist in a media landscape which has been built around uniformity and conformity.

Brands wanting to do more than just wheel out the “matching luggage” to their TV ad have a unique canvas woven into the fabric of communities. Giving them the opportunity to share more of their personality and driving deeper brand associations.

There is also a perceived permanence to a hand-painted mural. 

Demonstrating an extra level of sincerity and bravery from brands, putting their message out there in an unavoidably public setting. This is the opposite to digital ads, which can be changed or removed at a moment’s notice.

Social proof has a big role to play in OOH. To quote Saatchi & Saatchi’s chief strategy officer Richard Huntington: “It’s not just that you see the message, it’s that everyone sees the message, and everyone knows everyone else saw the message”.

Chiming with subculture

Combining the public potency of murals with culturally relevant need-states (right place, right time, right message) delivers even stronger brand effects. Murals have the power to tap in and tether brands to a raw public moment while supporting the circular economy of talented artists.


I love this! �� CITEHHH ������

♬ Blue Moon - Man City FC FanChants & MCFC Fans Songs & Manchester City Fans

Expressing human-powered creativity through craft

It’s fair to say that art naturally attracts aesthetic attention, but it’s the celebration of human endeavour which sets this genre of advertising apart. It marks the difference between murals and other creative solutions such as digital OOH and large-format vinyl banners. It’s the process which imbues potency.

As Ogilvy UK vice-chairman Rory Sutherland says, any communication which involves a high degree of difficulty or scarcity in its creation is a more impactful communication.

Investment into creativity, whatever the channel, demonstrates a brand’s sincere faith in its own product. What separates hand-painted advertising is this process of human craft; a group of artists giving a piece of themselves to every project.

In addition to GSA’s audience metrics using OOH industry tool Route, (our top 50 walls delivering 12 million Route Impacts per week), our study using Hypercell technology has allowed us to measure real-time footfall and dwell figures for individual walls. 

A proof point in this study is the dramatic difference in attention (time in view) between a blank wall vs a painted wall. However, most interesting is the groundswell of intrigue while the mural is being painted. The highest footfall and dwell time is recorded during the days while the artists are painting. This backs up the theory that the process of human craft within communities drives heightened engagement.

Shareability across owned and earned media

I’ve laboured the point that people look up, take notice and remember murals. It doesn't stop there. Strong engagement of murals IRL translates to authentic traction on social media. 

The best murals turn “stop & stare” moments into “stop & share” occasions, generating online reach through earned social media and mainstream PR.

Digital content of murals is still consumed through a lens of social proof, building an existential bridge for audiences between both physical and digital platforms.

OOH large formats are typically designed to be bold and seen at a distance. Global Street Arts co-founder and CEO Dr. Lee Bofkin ensures mural creatives pass the matchbox test: “if it works visually on a tiny matchbox, it will work on a wall.” The result is content impervious to pixel pressure.

Creative Conclusion

You will be relieved, I hope, that this article didn’t descend into a sermon on loyalty or brand love. Quite the opposite. I don’t believe brand loyalty to be wholly achievable. I would go as far as to say that consumers aren’t loyal to brands at all. We are simply loyal to the experience which a brand affords us.

This takes me to a simple conclusion: The way we win customers is often the way we lose them. The creative effort and standard we set as advertisers is the creative bar our competitors need to beat. A battle of talent where attention is earned and won, not forced or coerced.

Hand-painted advertising has the power to bring some of the best ideas to life; to entertain and harness attention in an authentic way. A human-to-human bond, not so easily broken.

Ben Fishlock is head of client strategy at Global Street Art

Reach out to Ben to visit Global Street Art’s epic Old St, London HQ, to better understand the process behind painting, visit their hidden museum of 100,000 objects, and to see many of their exclusive local media sites. You will be inspired!


You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now


Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Become a member of Campaign

Get the latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now