“Call me if you nasty,” young woman read out loud and broke into laughter. I was walking just behind her and I couldn’t otherwise but start laughing too. New giant missed connection billboard was hanging on a Bogart St building right off the Morgan L train.
“I saw you walking your cat down Bogart Ave like a real man should. I don’t know if you remember me but I am often mistaken for young Janet Jackson. You can find me on the flea market on weekends where I sell my own hand-knitted nipple tassels and home-made jams. Call me if you nasty. 1-844-COLOSSAL”
Quite funny, I thought to myself. Especially the first part “I saw you walking your cat down Bogart St.” because there is an actual guy walking his cat on a leash down Bogart Street. The guys’ name is Arman and his wonderful huge cat who proudly walks on a leash is Raja (you can follow Raja on Facebook). For a couple of seconds I believed that the missed connection ad is real thanks to this particular reference; or that somebody came up with a completely crazy art project that I wanted to be part of. I looked up the hashtag #colossal mentioned on the ad right away. The missed connection billboard is in fact a self-promoting advertisement of a hand paint mural and outdoor advertising company, Colossal.
Despite the billboard being an ad, I wasn’t quite disappointed, in fact I was pretty excited about how innovative Colossal is. I mean, this was likely the first advertising hashtag that I was actually interested in ever. Despite the social media frenzy of the past years, PR agencies and advertising folks rarely do a good job promoting a hashtag and reaching the sought results of hashtag sparking curiosity and public conversation…
But Colossal is different. They have a very impressive portfolio of clients (they claim to be the biggest hand paint mural company in the world), but moreover they have a really impressive portfolio of work. Blending street art with advertising works really well in New York City, which is a true street art mecca.
Of course, I wanted to know more, and so I asked Paul Lindahl, the vice-president at Colossal a bunch of questions. Would you believe that that Raja cat reference is an actual coincidence? I believe it must have been some serious subconsciousness at work.
BD: What inspired you to create the ad?
Paul: We painted the ad purely for fun. We do a bunch of this type of stuff as often as we possibly can. Most of what we do is advertising based and that’s how we make our money but were all artists here so if we’ve got a spare second well do something different. Recently we volunteered our time to reproduce the winning photograph for a non profit who provides scholarship money for young artists on a 5 story building at he corner of Broadway and Bedford, we painted a portrait in tribute of Nelson Mandela, a 15 story building close to Times Square for the artist Faile. Stuff like this is what keeps our blood pumping while churning out over 300 murals for brands during each year.
Do you personally know Arman, the guy who walks his cat on Bogart St?
We actually had no idea there was a guy who walks his cat in the neighborhood, that was a total coincidence. We found out when Jason, who was the painter on this mural saw the project scheduled, he lives on the block too.
Can you tell me more about your company and its philosophy?
Ya there’s 35 of us, we’ve been in business for 10 years which is a huge point of pride for us. When we started the company there was pretty much zero hand painted ads being executed. We’ve spent every day of the last 10 years fighting to validate what we believe is a tradition worth keeping alive. When we started in ’04 there were 3 of us; now we’ve got walls in 20 cities across the US and spend most of our time trying to keep up. We all love what we do and have an us against everything attitude since there are much cheaper and faster ways to making an advertisement. Our philosophy was, is, and always will be to “always hand paint”.
How many murals do you have in Bushwick?
We have a more and more walls in Bushwick and probably 3/4 of our shop lives there.
What does it take to become a painter for Colossal? Have you been hiring any Bushwick artists?
To become a Colossal painter you have to be able to work really hard for really long hours in all sorts of uncomfortable environments. We work 366 days of the year in hot, cold, rainy and snowy weather. It takes a very special type of person to be a successful Colossal painter, it’s really really hard work, we joke that you’re not really part of the team until your boyfriend of girlfriend leaves you because you’re always at work. We love what we do and are willing to sacrifice a lot because we understand it to be a very special opportunity to have an outlet to utilize and expand our artistic abilities.