updated: The co-founders of a small startup suspect something more than a dark subway stairwell prompted a billboard to be pulled from a downtown San Francisco wall before the crowd attending Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference could see it Monday morning.
That billboard, which was leased by a company called doubleTwist and contained an ad with the message "Your cure for iPhone envy," - is not on just any wall. It's on the wall of the downtown San Francisco Apple store and sits below the store's big Apple logo.
This portion of the wall actually belongs to BART - the Bay Area Rapid Transit District - and hugs a stairwell that leads from the underground Powell Street station to the street above. It's the BART station closest to Moscone Center, where the conference is being held.
The official word from BART is that the black background of the billboard darkened the stairwell leading down the station and that created a safety issue. DoubleTwist re-submitted twice new billboards for approval - first with a white background and another with a transparent background that makes it hard to read the message. The transit agency has approved the transparent one but it's still unclear how soon that billboard can go back up.
But now, co-founder Jon Lech Johansen thinks there's a higher power - namely, Apple - at work here. His software allows users to have an iPhone-like experience, specifically copying music, movies and photos to other devices, including cell phones, other mp3 players and handheld gaming devices. He suspects that Apple doesn't want that advertised so close to its store and has the power to do something about it. From Johansen's blog post:
Apple is a major BART advertiser (in the past they’ve plastered entire BART stations with iPod ads). Apple’s WWDC conference ends on Friday. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here… I’m sure our ad will conveniently be back up after WWDC ends.
Regardless, the startup already missed its big splash. The whole purpose of putting that ad up when they did was so that it would be seen Monday morning as people came off the train and headed to the big keynote presentation at the conference. They can't have that moment back. So here's the ad again, in case any of those WWDC attendees missed it. (Images courtesy of doubleTwists's Flickr album.)
updated: We're told that the billboard - the transparent one - was installed Wednesday afternoon, roughly around 3 p.m.