IBM gets $100,000 fine for 'Peace, Love and Linux' campaign

Spray-painting logos on pavements and streets of San Francisco for a Linux advertising campaign was not the smartest move IBM ever made
Written by Robert Lemos, Contributor

IBM has agreed to pay San Francisco a $100,000 fine and almost $20,000 in related costs to clean up after the company's "Peace, Love and Linux" ad campaign, in which the company's ad firm spray-painted logos on sidewalks and streets around the city.

When affirmed by the city's Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Willie Brown, the deal will end a nine-month saga between Big Blue and the Bay Area over the simple stencil of a peace symbol, a heart and a penguin, the official Linux mascot.

"They knew exactly what they were doing," said Gavin Newsom, one of the city's 11 supervisors. "They branded the three images. They knew it would create marketing. It's the guerrilla marketing that Ogilvy cherishes so much."

Ad firm Ogilvy & Mather spearheaded the campaign for IBM, hiring people to paint sidewalks with the stencils in a black chalk that was supposedly biodegradable. However, after several months, many of the stencils could still be seen.

While the ad campaign amused many Linux enthusiasts, the city considered it nothing more than graffiti.

"The ads required an intense baking soda and high-pressure hose mixture to clean up," said Newsom. "Some were etched into the concrete, so, in those cases, they will never be removed."

In total, San Francisco has received complaints about 308 instances of the ad. Others are most certainly out there, said Newsom, who added that graffiti is a misdemeanor and normally carries up to a $500 fine per incident.

Under the terms of the deal, IBM will pay the city $100,000 plus the costs of cleaning up any ads found by the end of the year. So far, cleanup costs have amounted to nearly $10,000. Big Blue will also pay the city's attorney fees of some $9,000.

An IBM representative confirmed the details of the settlement but declined to comment further.

The deal is expected to be reviewed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on 3 December and sent to the mayor by the end of the month.

For all your GNU/Linux and open source news, from the latest kernel releases to the newest distributions, see ZDNet UK's Linux Lounge.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the Linux lounge forum

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.

Editorial standards