The Power of Space

by Dan Walsh


No, not the cosmos. Emptiness. 

I was going to write about how this wall was a complete waste of potential. I was going to write about how it was big enough to be a billboard, and if the store behind the wall didn’t want to utilize it, then they should sell the space to someone else. There’s enough high-value foot traffic in this neighborhood to make this wall lucrative. I see this type of wasted space all over San Francisco.

And then I saw this…


Great job Longchamps!

It took me about three weeks to get around to writing this post, and in that time they wrapped the wall with an advertisement for their future store. Good for them.

And then just around the corner, Burberry has turned the construction wall into art. They saw a blank canvas.

burberry construction wall union square san francisco

Urinal Space

I heard a story in a college about an enterprising young student who went around to all his local bars and bought the wall space above the urinals in their bathrooms. This was basically free money for the bar owners so they all said yes. They weren’t using it, after all. But the kid saw opportunity in that space. He started hanging posters and flyers and all kinds of stuff. He rented this space from the bar owners, and sold it back at a higher rate to people who needed advertising.


Then he went on to found the world’s largest advertising agency.

Or something.

I think this story is a lot of urban legend, and I couldn’t find any concrete facts on the internet. BUT! Urinal advertisements are all over the place, so there’s a kernel of truth here. That space is lucrative.

Blank Canvases and Artistic Expression

There’s a line that I feel get’s used a lot in movies. It’s always an artsy, visonary person talking to a square. They say “You see that wall and all you see is a wall. When I look at that wall I see a blank canvas.” Sometimes it’s a business guy talking to a country bumpkin. He took the railroad out west to make his dreams come true. and the business guy says he sees a thriving metropolis where the bumpkin only sees tumbleweeds. Whatever it is, it’s always cliche.

But cliche’s have some truth or they wouldn’t resonate with everyone and get overused. Marketing has become my art. So when I look at a blank wall, I see space. Space that can be bought, sold, or somehow utilized. This sounds like a heavily capitalistic point of view, but it’s not. I just don’t like waste. If the wall was left blank on purpose, then the artist in me would appreciate it for the white space that it is – the break from busyness – and call it beautiful. But when it’s left empty on accident, the marketer in me gets riled up.

Space is Hard to See

Space is hard to identify and think about because it’s always nothingness. It’s like trying to explain a hole. The only way to do this is to explain it in context to the stuff around it. You can’t have a hole without it being surrounded by the opposite of the hole. That business man couldn’t envision a “thriving metropolis” if he hadn’t already seen them back east. He can see the space because the edge of that space is where a city begins. He knew how to look for it.

I realized we have a big hole on some of the landing pages I run at the office. They have about a 30% conversion rate, which is phenomenal for any business. But that means 70% of the people who visit my site leave. That’s a hole. I know nothing about them accept that for some reason they didn’t want want my product. There’s a space of people and a space of knowledge.

Space is opportunity.

The marketer in me is riled up.