Coca-Cola washing off illegal French Quarter sidewalk advertisements

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 30, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 6:06 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS - If you were downtown Friday, you might have thought the city sidewalks were for sale.

During the night, paid graffiti artists were sent on a guerrilla marketing blitz throughout historic areas, causing a controversy over why some people tried to paint the town Coca-Cola red.

New Orleanians who live in the Vieux Carre' and downtown Faubourgs, woke up to lots a lots of red graffiti. This time the art was a familiar corporate logo dating back to 1886. According to an ad now removed from craigslist.com, the graffiti artists were well paid, $600 each to be exact, for three artists to stencil 120 Coca-Cola logos without city permission.

"I think that it's detestable that a corporation can come in and decide that the sidewalks of a nearly 300-year-old historic area are something that they can use as advertising. And then also would encourage city council and our city officials to get on top of this because eventually we're going to run into more and more of these kinds of events and situations," said Kalen Wright, a French Quarter resident and blogger of www.nolafemmes.com.

Social media was all atwitter about the tags.

"There have been a lot of very unfavorable comments both on Twitter, on Facebook, also on the website that I write for, that indicate that people find this to be something that is ridiculous and not welcome in our community," added Wright.

By mid-day, Coca-Cola had power washer teams zigzagging through the mass of Final Four tourists removing the commercials made of temporary marking chalk. Coca-Cola says it was all a big mistake.

"Essentially there was a miscommunication between our (New York advertising) agency of what the permit that they saw from the city allowed, but it was clearly a miscommunication on the part of our agency. hen we learned of their misinterpretation, we moved very quickly and expeditiously to send out crews to remove the stencils that they had placed," said Kel Villarrubia, the senior public affairs and communications director for Coca-Cola Refreshments in New Orleans.

Some people say publicity is publicity. It doesn't matter if it's positive or negative. So with what Coca-Cola did would that make you more likely to buy the product or less likely to buy the product?

"I think that's probably overstepping the boundary lines a little bit if they did it without approval," said Jackie Joanem, a tourist visiting from Chicago.

"I think it's illegal. It's just like somebody painting, tagging, painting it on the side of the building or something. It's no better. They should go to jail or be fined heavily," said James Coburn of New Orleans.

"(I would) keep buying regardless of what Coca-Cola does illegal, their drinks are really good," said Natalie Coburn of New Orleans who was holding a Coke bottle in her hands.

"I'd buy it anyway. I like Coke, so I would drink it regardless if it's painted on the street or not," said Alana Adam, a young tourist from Houston.

But Coke says it didn't want to make news by causing problems, just by resolving them.

Complete response from the city:

The stenciling in the French Quarter was not and is not permitted. Upon learning of the stenciling, the City began taking action against the violator and contacted Coca Cola. An advertising firm that had been hired by Coca Cola has ceased and Coca Cola is already removing the illegal advertising. We reserve our rights to pursue citing the business involved.

Sec. 134-128. - Advertisements on streets, telegraph poles, etc., prohibited.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to post or paint advertisements of any kind on any street, sidewalk, public buildings, utility poles, light standards, street signs, parking meters, trees located in public right-of-way or traffic signal standards.

(b) Any unlawful posted or painted advertisement on any street, sidewalk, public buildings, utility poles, light standards, street signs, parking meters, trees located in public rights-of-way or traffic signal standard shall be seized and removed.

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