Pavement stencils drag web firm into graffiti row

RNR SEO's stencil campaign. Picture: Jon Savage
RNR SEO's stencil campaign. Picture: Jon Savage
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The latest example of “reverse graffiti” – where an image or logo is blast-cleaned on to a dirty pavement – has appeared at 50 of the most well-trodden streets in the Capital.

The stunt by Leith-based internet marketing company RNR SEO was a creative ploy to ask businesses if they were “cleaning up online”.

Staff crept out in the dead of the night, armed with a stencil and high-pressure cleaner, to target popular thoroughfares like George Street.

However, critics of the quirky campaign have hit out against the “vandals on a rampage”, claiming it is defacing the walkways.

Each image is expected to last up to two weeks, depending on weather and footfall.

Company founder Jamie Anderson, 27, said he wanted to take a creative approach to advertising.

He said: “I think it has turned out really well. We had people stopping us and asking what we were doing, thinking we were from the council and cleaning the dirty pavements.”

Not everyone was impressed – with one resident saying he considered calling the police.

“I am amazed that a company would be allowed to do it,” said the resident, who asked not to be named. “I didn’t know whether to call the council or the police but I think it’s definitely 

City centre Tory councillor Joanna Mowat said she was concerned about damage it could cause to the paving stones.

She said: “I would suggest anyone who sees them to report it to the council as it needs looking in to. Pressure washers can cause damage to paving if it isn’t done carefully.

“It also highlights that the state of the pavements are not up to the standard I would like.”

Mr Anderson acknowledged that some people had taken issue with their work, but argued it drew attention to the problem of street cleanliness.

“We’ve had some people who thought it was paint and said we were vandalising the streets,” he said.

“But I’d argue [internationally renowned street artist] Banksy does it in the name of art. What we are doing is obviously advertising our business but also drawing attention to how dirty Edinburgh’s streets are. We had our best results on the dirtiest streets.”

City council bosses said technically it was not classed as graffiti but if they received complaints it would be 

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport and environment convener, said: “Temporary stencils are not generally a problem as long as they can be washed away easily.

“No complaints have been received about these particular stencils.”