Big Blue Brought to Task for Graffiti

Guerrilla marketing may be a hot strategy these days, but it’s a strategy that backfired on IBM Corp. Tuesday when a trail of sidewalk graffiti on Chicago’s North Side lead Chi-town police straight to the computer industry behemoth.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 100 or so locations in The Windy City were tagged with black spray painted peace symbols, hearts and penguins — the hall marks of Big Blue’s recently launched, multi-million dollar “Peace, Love, Linux,” eServer advertising campaign.

The revelation comes a week after Chicago police arrested Ali Morsy, 20, for allegedly stenciling the symbols in black spray paint on the city’s sidewalks. Ogilvy & Mather, the firm behind IBM’s campaign, said the graffiti was supposed to be done in biodegradable chalk. The Sun-Times reported that Morsy — working for Chicago-based Ch’rewd Promotions which handled IBM promotion in Chicago — was caught with black spray paint on his hands and three cans of paint in his possession when police arrested him last Wednesday. He was charged with criminal damage to property, possession of paint and vandalism.

A city ordinance gives the municipality the power to fine any business that advertises through posters, paint or signs in the city’s right-of-way.

Chi-town Streets and Sanitation Department officials said that a high-pressure solution of baking soda and water must be used to remove the paint. The city is considering fining Big Blue up to $5,000, or $50 for each location vandalized. It may also charge IBM for the cost of the cleanup. Sanitation Department officials said each spot will take up to an hour to clean at a cost of about $67 per half hour for equipment, labor and supplies.

San Francisco, too, has been at the receiving end of IBM’s taggers. Last week that city ordered the company to remove graffiti from its sidewalks.

Big Blue spokesmen said the graffiti portion of its campaign has been discontinued.

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