Creating an urban jungle: guerrilla gardening moss graffiti as an unconventional advertising approach
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Creating an urban jungle: guerrilla gardening moss graffiti as an unconventional advertising approach

Creating an urban jungle: guerrilla gardening moss graffiti as an unconventional advertising approach

Sasha Lukyanova

The prefix “guerrilla” is often used to describe rebels who are in conflict with an oppressive power; members of organisations trying to change the government by making unexpected attacks. Putting the words “guerrilla” and “gardening” together might seem unorthodox, but the concept stays the same. Instead of using military forces, guerrilla gardeners attack inhospitable city environments with seed bombs – a mix of seeds and soil coated in clay – with the hope of germinating plants in closed or hard to reach areas. 

The term “guerrilla gardening” is believed to have originated in New York during the 70s, and the phrase is now known worldwide and closely associated with urban gardening. Stemming from the guerrilla gardening movement, moss graffiti is a type of street art that was born as an act of resistance against the dullness of our concrete cities. Together, guerrilla gardening moss graffiti acts as an environmentally friendly union seeking to transform the dreary public land that has been heavily neglected by local government.

Using guerrilla gardening moss graffiti as an advertising method will undoubtedly make a memorable experience for any passers-by. It simultaneously raises brand awareness and creates urban biodiversity, adding color and a green space for people to enjoy. Brands seeking to use guerrilla gardening moss graffiti as a marketing method are guaranteed publicity, as using flora to advertise has a plethora of benefits attached.


Motivations behind guerrilla gardening moss graffiti 

Before discussing these benefits, it’s important to explore the movement more closely, particularly the motivations behind guerrilla gardening. Self proclaimed ‘gangsta gardener’ Ron Finley sees guerrilla gardening as a way to change the world. He began by planting food on a desolate sidewalk outside his home, which landed him in trouble with the Los Angeles city council. He eventually won permission to keep the vegetable garden from being destroyed and has since seen it grow into a vast backyard oasis, now employing assistants and community volunteers to help him keep it maintained. Ron has attracted attention with his now-famous TED talk on the topic, which has been translated into 34 languages. In the video, Ron explains how, as an artist, “gardening is his graffiti'', enabling him to grow his art and use soil as his canvas.

Self-described “gangster gardener’” Ron Finley stands in front of his thriving garden. Source: Ever Widening Circles
Since the 70s, the guerrilla gardening movement has built a strong worldwide community with the practice taking place in many parts of the world. Websites, forums, blogs and YouTube channels have been created to bring guerrilla gardeners from around the world together and to keep them up-to-date with news and potential spots for future gardening, such as derelict sidewalks and even potholes. The green practice has also declared 1st May as International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, which sees sunflower seeds be distributed freely and planted around neighbourhoods – a thoughtful initiative that turns grey space into fields of yellow.   

Advertising examples of guerrilla gardening moss graffiti

Because this form of advertising is unconventional compared to traditional advertising methods such as TV or billboards, it’s sure to gain extensive attention and generate word-of-mouth marketing. For one campaign in Cairo that raised awareness about the benefits of Lipton Green Tea, “Healthy Natural”, the brand trimmed trees so that they resembled large teacups with Lipton Green tea tags hanging out the side. This out-of-the-ordinary advertising campaign found a tranquil place in the cluttered field of outdoor advertising by offering people something refreshingly different. 

A flower-centered approach had excellent results for Havaianas; to promote their flip-flops, the brand installed giant versions of the shoe in locations where they were sold. Each oversized flip-flop was decorated with a bed of flowers and shrubs, reminding customers of the brand’s connection to nature and the outdoors.
Bed of Flowers by Havaianas. Source: Ads of the World.

Guerrilla gardening moss graffiti can also be seen casing the storefront of Plant the Future, a botanical shop in Miami – promoting the shop in an eco-friendly manner. A mixture of plants and flowers, the installation is big, bold, and – most importantly – sustainable. The storefront, with its draping greenery, has been photographed countless times, and captivates observers who  frequently stop by to admire the leafy installation.

Plant the Future, a botanical shop in Miami – promoting the shop in an eco-friendly manner. Source:

Benefits and potential drawbacks of guerrilla gardening

Guerrilla gardening moss graffiti is undoubtedly a more sustainable way to advertise. It is a greener alternative to spray paint graffiti, and it promotes positive mental health, improving quality of life and fostering our connection with nature. Brands that are conscious about their carbon footprint need look no further if they want to highlight their eco-friendly actions and market themselves with a sustainable advertising method. 

Sony did just that when cars entirely coated in grass began popping up parked in random locations around Sydney. This advertisement aimed to educate people on the benefits of environmentally friendly cars and celebrate Sony’s commitment to offsetting carbon emissions caused by their corporate travel. 

Before executing a guerrilla gardening campaign, the legalities surrounding it need to be carefully considered. The whole concept of guerrilla gardening involves occupying and transforming land that has restricted access. Although the movement is to make the neglected surroundings more attractive, it is technically illegal to plant on land that is not owned by the person doing the gardening. It’s because of this that guerrilla gardening often takes place at night, out of sight from nosy commuters. That being said, most curiosity around the practice stems from enthusiasm and interest, and the practice itself is almost always applauded as it beautifies areas without causing harm to the environment.
Flowers bloom in unexpected places in New York City. Artist: Lewis Miller.

Making a statement  

Guerrilla gardening moss graffiti is a unique marketing strategy. It requires a ton of creativity and energy to execute – made easier with the help of a passionate artist – but in the end the benefits far outweigh the labour. Not only are green installations more sustainable than traditional advertising, they boost moods and encourage creative thinking. What’s more, graffiti with moss has the potential to increase brand visibility and reputation, create a memorable experience, and stimulate positivity, which has a strong impact on purchasing decisions. This exciting form of advertising gets great feedback from consumers and generates a buzz online. Making a statement has never been more fun. 

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