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Monday, August 30, 2010

Zynga Mafia Wars Stickers Prompt City Attorney to Go to the Mattresses

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Yes, money is power. But having the Unfair Competition Law at your disposal is power, too. - SFDPW
  • Yes, money is power. But having the Unfair Competition Law at your disposal is power, too.
San Francisco's city attorney has decided that money is not enough to compensate for ad firm Davis Elen plastering 4,000 Zynga Mafia Wars stickers onto San Francisco sidewalks. And, unless ad executives agree, the city will send their loved ones' fingers and toes to them every hour, on the hour.

No, not really. But the city is evoking the Unfair Competition Law, which would mandate Davis Elen to not only reimburse the city for the cost of power-blasting the stickers off city walkways -- probably a six-figure payout -- but disgorge profits as well.

"It's not sufficient for them to pay to clean it up," said city attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey. "They have to pay more."

The city initially turned its wrath on local social gaming company Zynga for the ads, but Davis Elen subsequently claimed full responsibility for what the city attorney is calling an "illegal and actionable" guerrilla marketing campaign.

A DPW worker sends Mafia Wars stickers to sleep with the fishes - SFDPW
  • A DPW worker sends Mafia Wars stickers to sleep with the fishes
In a sternly worded letter sent today, deputy city attorney Alex Tse also chides Davis Elen and Zynga for not living up to promises to get those damn stickers off the street. "When I learned that Zynga would order the removal of all stickers, I immediately contacted the Department of Public Works (DPW) to suspend effors to remove and abate the unlawful stickers," Tse writes. "However, on August 26, 2010 and subsequent to Zynga's representation that all stickers were removed, DPW dispatched staff to remove stickers at Lily and Octavia. I am obviously now concerned about the abatement effort."

It isn't certain how much of a cleaning bill the city intends to stick Davis Elen with -- and how much more it could demand using the Unfair Competition Law. But here's the tally of guerrilla marketers busted in the past:

  • In 2001, IBM was made to cough up $110,000 for illegal stenciling

  • In 2005, NBC Universal paid $103,000 after unlawful stencils advertising The 4400, a show that did last somewhat longer than those stencils.

When it comes to taking this case to court, Tse advises the Mafia Wars advertisers to leave the gun -- and take his cannoli.

"While it would be my preference to avoid filing a civil complaint in this matter, this office has successfully pursued actions in past (sic) for the very same conduct at issue here," he writes. "I encourage you t meet with me to discuss a prompt resolution of this matter."

Yes. The lawyer intends to make 'em an offer they can't refuse.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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