Media Observations – Sidewalk Chalk

I kid you not. Check it out:

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I find these things all over my university campus, and on the surrounding sidewalks between housing complexes.

When I saw it, one of the first things that I thought of was, “Wow, a new mass medium!” And then I remembered that children and artists have been playing with sidewalk chalk for decades.

Of all the mass media, I’m not sure where to categorize this, but the closest group it seems to match up to is general print advertising media. It’s not the most effective way to advertise, but it certainly is resourceful for college students who can’t afford real ads.

Let’s look at the cons first. That way we’ll end positively.

The cons are also clear: sidewalk chalk feels a little silly. It’s not very professional. While it makes an emotional impact by being easily understood and relatable to any new adults, it may not necessarily be the right impact to make for some companies.

It lends an amateur, cheap feel to whatever is being advertised. Sometimes that is OK, as with parties and other one-time events that advertise themselves this way (and even get somewhat artistic with their chalk design), but I cringe a little for Instate Angels sake. I’m not sure a financial company should be doing that.

Alternatively, it is extremely temporary. Any of the elements will eventually insure that it is washed away or brushed around to the point of unrecognizability. Snow, rain, and even sun and wind that frequent the Rexburg area insure that, in this town at least, the ad is going to have to be replaced by some small group of students very repeatedly.

The pros are probably obvious to the casual observer: university students walk with their heads down almost all the time, so burdened with the cares of the world as they are. They would readily see the advertisement.

Another pro is that this is something we can easily understand and remember. There aren’t many ads on the sidewalk, and by necessity they are simple and straightforward to the point that it’s just a name and contact information, which the mind can simply catalogue and remember.

Sidewalk chalk is a mass medium of communication? It certainly qualifies. Hundreds of students could see it repeatedly as they walk to and from classes and from home to school. It’s placed where they usually look. It’s simple and easy to understand.

It’s just a little silly, and somewhat archaic.

But in the right climate, and with a skilled artist, imagine what you could do for quality pull advertising with the lowest production cost imaginable.

Do you think this is valid advertising? Why or why not?


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