History Repeats Itself: Twitter Launches Illegal SF Street Stencil Campaign Just As IBM DId Decades Ago

from the oops dept

Everything old is new again, and the population of tech workers seems to turn over especially fast in the San Francisco Bay Area. I guess I now qualify as an old timer, in that I remember quite clearly when IBM ran a big ad campaign in San Francisco and Chicago to profess its newfound love for Linux. The ad campaign involved stenciling three symbols side-by-side: a peace symbol, a heart, and Tux, the Linux penguin:

The message? Peace, Love, Linux. It didn't make much sense then either. Either way, neither city was happy with the streets being all stenciled up. San Francisco fined IBM $100,000 for graffiti, though perhaps the company figured that was cheaper than buying a bunch of billboards in the same area, and it certainly got more press attention. The story was even more fucked up in Chicago, however. There, one of the random dudes IBM's ad company had hired to paint this ad message all over sidewalks was arrested and sentenced to community service for vandalism. Not great.

So, apparently no one working at Twitter was around for that experience nearly two decades ago, because the company has just done the same thing. Just a few days ago I was at the Powell Street BART station and saw it was completely coated in giant posters of tweets, but apparently they're stenciled on sidewalks nearby as well (I seemed to have missed those)

San Francisco wasted little time in pointing out to Twitter that, uh, this is not allowed:

Apt or not, the stencils, created using a spray-paint-like chalk, are illegal, according to Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

“That’s not the use of the sidewalks,” she said. “We can go and document them. If they don’t remove them immediately, we’ll send a crew to remove them and charge them.”

Gordon added, “Our sidewalks are not to be used for commercial billboards. Twitter has the resources to use appropriate venues to advertise their company.”

Twitter has apparently already apologized and said it's trying to figure out why it fucked up:

Twitter responded with the following apology: "We looked into what happened and identified breakdowns in the process for meeting the cities' requirements for our chalk stencils. We're sorry this happened."

I'm just amazed that no one involved in the process remembered the whole IBM thing, but I guess it's just a reminder of how old stories like that fade away.

Filed Under: advertisements, chalking, promotions, sf, stencils
Companies: ibm, twitter


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Paul A. Dinn, 17 Sep 2019 @ 3:49pm

    "...anyway, important thing is, had an onion on my belt"

    You are now admittedly past it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2019 @ 4:09pm

      Re: "...anyway, important thing is, you promised to leave

      Sup liar. Why you still here?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gary (profile), 17 Sep 2019 @ 9:22pm

        Re: Re: "...anyway, important thing is, you promised to leave

        Sup liar. Why you still here?

        Mostly because he has no where else to go. He has no honor, he lives in his parents basement, and everyone knows he is a liar with Blue Balls.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul B, 17 Sep 2019 @ 4:17pm

    Pressurewasher

    I recall one firm getting away with this, by cleaning the sidewalks with pressure washers. The laws cover paint, and other stuff, but cleaning the street in targeted ways appears to be legal.

    https://abc7news.com/archive/8410628/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 Sep 2019 @ 8:56am

      Re: Pressurewasher

      The perfect artwork, where the city objecting opens them up to the artist pointing out that they didn't add anything, they merely removed some of the grease and dirt that was already there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 17 Sep 2019 @ 4:27pm

    I suspect nobody remembered the IBM fiasco because everybody at Twitter involved with this was in grade school at the time (or no later than high school) and so wasn't paying any attention to the news reports. It's not quite far enough back to say nobody at Twitter was alive then, but it's getting close.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Sep 2019 @ 5:07pm

    There, one of the random dudes IBM's ad company had hired to paint this ad message all over sidewalks was arrested and sentenced to community service for vandalism. Not great.

    That story has one comment, saying that it was misreported (hard to tell because the magazine link is dead). Apparently they hired him to chalk the message on sidewalks, and he chose to paint it instead, which is why he got in trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 17 Sep 2019 @ 7:06pm

    The Truth

    That IBM pic clearly states that 'Satanists Love Linux'. Naturally, they would try to spin it a different way afterwards, but we know the truth!

    ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Sep 2019 @ 8:35pm

    This is a great opportunity for Twitter, if they do it right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pete Austin, 18 Sep 2019 @ 4:49am

    This chalky paint is probably "whitewash"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 18 Sep 2019 @ 6:26am

    Why are you "amazed that no one involved in the process remembered the whole IBM thing" when you mention in the same article that IBM pretty much came out ahead?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Moo (profile), 18 Sep 2019 @ 6:33am

    Even knowing nothing about the previous incident, why didn't someone think, upon "inventing" a wonderful new advertising method, that perhaps the reason it hadn't been done before was because.... it was illegal?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 18 Sep 2019 @ 10:32am

    It wasn't us- the marketing company did it

    I'm a little surprised Twitter didn't offer the usual non-apology: "We hired an outside marketing firm that went 'rogue' and over-stepped their bounds. We will look into what happened [but we'll never admit who was responsible for the idea]."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 18 Sep 2019 @ 12:33pm

    "Our Sidewalks are for Vagrants, Dammit!"

    Apt or not, the stencils, created using a spray-paint-like chalk, are illegal, according to Rachel Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

    “That’s not the use of the sidewalks,” she said.

    No, of course not! The proper use for sidewalks in San Francisco is for vagrants to block them completely with tents and mountains of garbage, lounge around on them injecting heroin and spreading medieval diseases, and pooping and peeing all over them.

    Sweet Jeezus, for the city to collectively clutch its pearls over some chalk-paint which will wash or fade away within a week or so when they routinely tolerate behavior that's both far more disgusting and an actual threat to public health has got to win the Internet Irony Award of the week.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Sep 2019 @ 2:14pm

      Re: "Our Cops are for Sucking, Dammit!"

      One could ask why you smf on’t you have something better to do than clutch your pearls over someone else clutching their pearls.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 20 Sep 2019 @ 3:18am

      Re: "Our Sidewalks are for Vagrants, Dammit!"

      Or -- mad idea -- why not set up hostels for the homeless with Twitter's messages plastered all over them? Kill two birds with one stone (as it were).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 19 Sep 2019 @ 5:43am

    Chalk Washes Off in the Rain

    Back when we were kids, we were often given chalk to write on the sidewalks. No one got upset, other than the mothers of kids who were careless and got squished by the dinosaurs.

    Our masterpieces of chalk art on the sidewalks did not survive the next rain storms, however. Such weather events were common, especially during the summers when kids were out of school and thus more at liberty to decorate the sidewalks.

    As a result I have a hard time imagining the city succeeding with charges against commercial chalk artists. The evidence dissipates during the afternoon showers. A different result may obtain for paint-based applications.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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