Newest St. Pete Campaign Trick: Chalk Ads

IMG_2973Even if you don’t know who Jacob Christiano is, chances are you’ve seen his work: long poems carefully lettered in brightly colored chalk along St. Petersburg sidewalks. Or, more recently, Christiano’s work has appeared on the grounds of the Saturday Morning Market, directing visitors by chalk to food and craft vendors like some guerrilla copywriter. But over the last few weeks, Christiano’s eye-catching handprints have found another niche: political campaign ads.

Earlier this month, Christiano’s perfectly chalked prose invited voters to have a drink with mayoral candidate Jamie Bennett. For a small fee, of course, he’s colored downtown with other messages for Bennett’s campaign. Now, he’s doing work for city council candidate Karl Nurse.

This is the first time I’ve seen chalk ads used in any major political campaign. Sure, my activist friends in college used to scrawl messages on the sidewalk urging students to boycott some corporation or show up and protest the administration for one slight or another, but never a (wannabe) elected official actually paying money to look, well, hip.

And, despite the views of some political pundits, I like the concept. For one, Christiano is a good artist that adds character to sometimes sterile downtown St. Pete and deserves to make some dough off a service he’s done free for the last few years. Also, chalk campaigning is environmentally-friendly. Without it, Bennett could have printed up a few hundred paper fliers announcing his “bartender for a night” campaign schtick. But instead, he chose another medium that washed off with the next rain.

That’s kind of cool. Much more hip than these hokey bartender for a night gimmicks. But that’s another blog post …