A pedestrian walks by Microsoft stenciled graffiti on the sidewalk in front of 740 Valencia Street. Photo by Jessica Lum

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Microsoft Corporation, or an enthusiast using Microsoft’s logo, is promoting the upcoming launch of the new Windows phone with graffiti-like stencils.

Despite numerous requests for comment, the company, based in Redmond, Washington, has yet to confirm it is behind the graffiti marketing campaign that appeared last night in the Mission District. Similar stencils have appeared in New York.

Sara Blasing, account director for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, a Microsoft PR firm, said they are looking into whether the company is behind the stenciling.

If Microsoft is found responsible, the City of San Francisco will request that the company clean up the stenciling, a city official said.

“There was no permit issued for this, because it’s not legal,” said Christine Falvey, director of communications for the city’s Department of Public Works.

Falvey said she had not yet heard of the campaign, and asked for photos from MissionLoc@l so that she could contact Microsoft and request that it remove the stencils if the company is responsible.

“As a first step, we generally contact the company and rely on them for a cleanup. If not, we can bill them for any cleanup costs the city incurs,” said Falvey.

Gregg Schoenberg, 41, who lives near 20th and Valencia, first noticed three stencils last night within a three-block radius of his home.

Microsoft sidewalk ads were placed in three reported locations along Valencia Street, including this one, in front of 765 Valencia. Photo by Jessica Lum.

“It was kind of a slap in the face to see a corporation come along and do that,” he said.
“We lived through all the construction to widen the sidewalks, and they look beautiful, and people have been pretty reasonable about keeping them clean. It’s pretty offensive if they think that is an appropriate way to advertise.”

Graffiti art has defined the Mission District for decades and is generally tolerated by law enforcement in select locations, such as Clarion Alley, and when permitted on private property. But Article 23 of the San Francisco Public Works Code states that any form of graffiti on public property is a violation.

More sidewalk graffiti was located near the corner of 17th and Valencia Streets. Photo by Jessica Lum.

The stencils appear on the sidewalk at three locations on Valencia: 740 Valencia, between 18th and 19th streets; 675 Valencia, between 17th and 18th streets; and near the corner of 17th. It’s not clear if they have appeared elsewhere in the city.

The Valencia Street stencils, roughly 2×2 feet, feature the logo of Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system, which is slated to launch Monday, November 8, and promote a free Maroon 5 rock concert at the Fillmore that evening. The URL listed at the bottom of the stencil leads Microsoft’s Windows Phone website, which further leads to a Facebook page for the event.

Microsoft has had its hand slapped for guerrilla-style marketing before, such as when it plastered Manhattan with butterfly decals in 2002 to promote its MSN 8 Internet service.

While these stencils are made with a green semi-permanent chalk rather than spray-paint, Falvey said the medium used doesn’t change the code infraction.

The concert/phone release graffiti marketing is also taking place in New York, where it includes a free concert at the Roseland Ballroom featuring Katy Perry. According to promotions, Maroon 5 fans can drop into any AT&T store in San Francisco for a chance at the free tickets.

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  1. Saw another one of these on Mission just east of 5th Street yesterday. When do we (the City) get to just do the cleanup and send the bill to Microsoft? I’m tired of looking at these things.

  2. i have done work for a marketing company just like this! if you want the dirt on this agency, let me know. i have photos and quite the story to tell re: NYC, police, stencils, corporate $, etc

  3. These Microsoft ads can also be found in at least to locations on or near SFSU. I saw one at the northbound bus stop at 19th/Holloway. The other is on the west side of 19th Ave about 20 meters north of the southbound bus stop. I had planned on calling it in as a graffiti report like I did when Metro PCS spraypainted orange stencils all over SFSU (unfortunately, I got no response about that from either the DPW or SFSU).