Heavy Penalty Expected for Zynga Vandals

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM PDT
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Heavy Penalty Expected for Zynga Vandals

Joi Ito

Why is Zynga founder Mark Pincus smiling? Because he's less then remorseful about selling ads to purveyors of scams and malware.

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Here in San Francisco, crime does not pay -- even when it was supposed to be just a game.

Local game company Zynga attracted the City's ire this month with a marketing campaign that was just flat-out vandalism. The maker of such popular titles as Farmville, Cafe World and PetVille hired an advertising firm to promote their new MafiaWars title. The firm decided to glue advertisements that resembled money to San Francisco sidewalks.

The problem, obviously, is that you can just go around gluing whatever you want to public property. Somebody has to clean it up, and the city wanted Zynga to pay. The ad firm, David Elen, accepted responsibility and pledged to remove the ads. But several days later, several of the fake bills lingered, and the City was forced to send pressure-washers out to remove them.

Now the ad firm is on the hook for big fines, in addition to cleanup costs. In the past, companies have been fined tens of thousands of dollars for illegally defacing public property, such as when an NBC show stenciled ads around town.

Zynga hit New York as well with the same tactics. Locals there were annoyed, particularly since the glossy ads could become slippery in the rain and were placed near subway entrances. So far, the Big Apple has not responded.

Matt Baume would like to city's next crackdown to focus on take-out menus rubber-banded to front doors.

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