Why Google covered its latest Pixel 8 ads in mint-green graffiti

Following a teaser billboard campaign in NYC, the company celebrates its phone’s ‘Minty Fresh’ color update

Published On
Jan 25, 2024
Man painting over Google Pixel billboard

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New Yorkers brave enough to leave their apartments in this past week’s below-freezing temperatures might have noticed something different about the billboards dotting the streets and avenues—many of the out-of-home ads for Google’s Pixel phone were suddenly covered in mint-green graffiti. 

It wasn’t just three static billboards in downtown Manhattan that got the mint-green paint treatment starting Friday, Jan. 19. More than 200 digital OOH ads around Manhattan and Brooklyn were virtually graffitied with an animated mint paint drip—which posts on Google’s social accounts mirrored.

Google revealed today that the graffiti was a marketing stunt to tease its new mint-green colored Google Pixel 8 phone, now available for sale online and in-store.

Timed to the phone’s rollout, the teaser ads have now been replaced with new creative revealing the new color and the “Minty fresh” campaign tagline.

Google Pixel 8 campaign scrawled with green graffiti

As many brands experiment with AI-generated creative, Google decided to kick it old school for this campaign, tapping NYC-based artist Ricardo Gonzalez to create the paint drips. The artist tagged many of the teaser boards with his Instagram handle, @itsaliving, giving a hint that he had something to do with the campaign ahead of time.

Typically for a new Pixel phone, the creative team is tasked with communicating various tech updates. This time, the only new aspect was the color. 

“Strategically, this is just a color update of an existing product. And that product had ads out in the world—there’s Pixel 8 billboards that are all blue all over the place, in big cities, and online and on social,” Kevin Butler, Google’s executive creative director, global devices and services marketing, told Ad Age.

“So we thought, well, let’s do a color update. And not just the color update of our ads—not just flicking a switch and making the blue ad a green ad. … Pretty early, we had the idea of, ‘Why don't we just go and throw green paint all over our existing billboards?’”

Butler’s team wanted an artist with cachet in the street art world—Gonzalez is fairly well known, with 187,000 followers on Instagram alone. He’s also done work for brands such as Apple and Taco Bell, he said in a recent interview at the Brooklyn warehouse where he painted the billboards.

Gonzalez’s style often incorporates paint drips with clean lines, which is exactly what the Google team was looking for. “I wanted the paint to drip. Because it feels real, it feels imperfect in a good way,” Butler said.

The paint on the physical billboards is real paint. “We didn't just go to a printer,” Butler clarified.

Gonzalez is also hosting a live mural painting today in SoHo on a street level billboard, which will be streamed in all Google Store locations. He’s also putting together a graffiti workshop at the Google Store in Chelsea.

Google declined to share details regarding the ad spend for the campaign. The creative work was done internally.