Big Blue Gets Busted

IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y., soon will be receiving a cleaning bill, thanks to what was supposed to be an innocent, creative marketing campaign for its Linux operating system. Both the cities of San Francisco and Chicago are fining the company for spray painting three graffiti symbols — a peace sign, a heart and a penguin, symbolizing “peace, love and Linux,” — on public sidewalks.

According to Alex Mamak, director of public affairs for San Francisco's Department of Public Works, it's a violation of a city ordinance that states it is illegal to “erect, construct or maintain, paste, paint, print, nail, tack or otherwise fasten or affix” any sign to public property, including sidewalks.

“They're going to be fined, and we're also going to send them a bill for the cleanup,” said Al Sanchez, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

IBM has agreed to stop the campaign, saying, “We won't be doing anything like this in the future.”

Nevertheless, remedying the gone-afoul marketing mess has paid off. “[IBM] got the publicity it was looking for,” says Peter Breen, editor of Promo, a marketing magazine. “IBM goofing up a little bit is helping the cause. Now they've got the media's attention.”

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Associated Press and