Visual Arts

PR's Newest Rhetorical Twist: Advertisements Become "Murals"

When Legends Entertainment District announced it would be unveiling a "community-building six-story mural" on the west-facing wall of the Luhrs Building, we grabbed our cameras.

The historic 10-story building at 11 West Jefferson Street opened its doors in 1924 and its red-brick exterior has gone virtually untouched since. 

A mural there would be a huge deal, and though the project's PR team at Steve LeVine Entertainment wasn't sure who was "painting," we had a few faces we would have liked to see on the scaffolds. 

Instead, we arrived to see a six-story . . . something. We weren't sure what to call it — a wallscape? A banner? An installation? 

And then we landed on it: an advertisement. 

Legends Entertainment District is the marketing machine that was formed when the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns partnered and snatched up outdoor space for visual campaigning last year.

Since, it has posted ads on more than 21 large-format visual displays, including multiple LED screens and the large, electronic display that runs 18 hours a day, 365 days a year on the corner of Jefferson and Seventh streets. 

According to LeVine's reps, the ad for the Arizona Rattlers (an arena football team) is a "textured wall surfaces vinyl."

"Yeah, it's not painted," the Scottsdale-based public relations firm informed us, "but the vinyl company classifies the material as a 'mural-type of sign' . . . and we know it'll be a great link between the arts community and the downtown Phoenix area's entertainment district."

The banner, which reads "Less Field, More Football" with a Rattlers logo and a phone number to call for tickets, will be up until December, when it's peeled off and replaced by another.

Given: This would all be fine and normal if they all just stuck to "ad." (Okay, and didn't send us a slew of press releases, e-mails, and phone calls about how a new, large-scale piece of art was on one of downtown's historic buildings. They even offered up a time-lapse video of its creation.)

Instead, the advertisements have been called murals, lively installations, and "another way to help energize the Legends Entertainment District" by Rattlers owner Ron Shurts. The banner and large screens have been noted as a "great way to bring people downtown" and "bling" for downtown buildings by local media. 

Ultimately, art for ad's sake is nothing new, and neither are murals in Phoenix (for a backstory, check out our feature on local murals in "Tag, You're Art," Claire Lawton, September 30, 2010). Tucson's Joe Pagac has been driving up to Phoenix every First Friday (or so) to paint the west-facing wall of eye lounge with whimsical scenes and bold announcements of promotion company Stateside Presents' next big concert. We've even seen big-name brands swoop in and claim city walls for large, painted advertisements for beer. They, at least, semi-resembled artwork.  

If you happen to be in downtown and want to see a community mural painted by local artists and community volunteers, we'd recommend you check out the one on the vacant lot next to monOrchid on Roosevelt and Third streets, recently painted by local artists Hugo Medina, Gennaro Garcia, Lalo Cota, Colton Brock, Angel Diaz, Thomas Marcus, and a slew of neighborhood members.

Sales pitch not included.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton