Owel Shot!

Public Relations, Social Media Posted May 16, 2014 by chenpr

I ride the MBTA Commuter Rail to North Station most days for work. I love riding on trains, but I have to admit that the view from my window isn’t always pretty. Prime real estate almost never abuts the railroad line, so the view often includes abandoned shopping carts, rusted cars and car parts, piles of trash, discarded appliances, tires and shopping bags. Lots of tattered shopping bags caught in tree branches flapping in the wind.

(I wrote a poem about it entitled On the 6:44 to Boston if you’re interested.)

There’s also a lot of graffiti. Words, pictures, symbols, and colors splayed on just about any vertical surface—much of it inscrutable to my eyes. I’m told that some of the hieroglyphs are territorial and meant to signal turf claims to rival gangs, but to me it merely looks like America’s youth has too much free time and not enough respect. That’s the curmudgeon in me.westside

The communicator in me tries to analyze the scrawl and its effectiveness, and since I haven’t kept track of the gang scene since the Sharks and the Jets clashed in West Side Story, I’ll plead ignorance on whether the spray-painted warnings have proven effective in averting any rumbles. What I can tell you is that, from my vantage point on the train, most of the graffiti is little more than a meaningless blur of color. The train moves much too fast to make out the shapes or to try and decipher the words and pictures. Except for one example.

I recorded a video of what it looks like.

Did you catch it?

Amid a stream of visual dissonance, Owel Shot stands out. That one piece of graffiti exemplifies what we strive for as communicators. It’s bold, clear and concise. It’s intriguing, controversial and has an element of conflict. I don’t know what it means, but it catches my attention and begs for inquiry. As a brand it stays with me even as the rest of the messages quickly dissipate.

Owel Shot is a reminder that I have one brief moment to grab my audience’s attention and convince them I’ve got something to offer. If I fail to do that, everything that follows is a waste of time.