Most of San Francisco's street stencils, as described above, are what you would expect from a city known for progressive politics. Yet earlier this month, when a new set of stencils with a subtle commercial tone joined this chorus, city officials reacted quickly.
The stencils--a peace sign, heart, and smiling penguin head--are part of IBM's massive "Peace, Love and Linux" campaign. The campaign--and the guerilla-marketing tactic behind it--could be a youthful attempt by IBM to dispose of its stodgy image earned during the 1950s--card-punch operators in buttoned-down blue suits.
But for at least some of San Francisco's Linux fans, the strategy backfired.
D. Vinay Dixit, a self-avowed "Linux groupie," thought the stencils were "cool" the first time he saw one in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood where he lives.
"I thought someone in the 'hood was really into Linux." But then he noticed they were everywhere, and decided to take some action.
"It burned me to think about IBM ad guys getting away with that. I called the City to complain!"
According to Christine Falvey of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, IBM's timing was bad considering the recent Clean City Summit and a general push to keep San Francisco city streets clean.
"I also think they got busted because it was easy to figure out who was behind it," said Falvey.
Falvey added that after her department contacted IBM, the company agreed to remove all stencils.