Coca-Cola graffiti matter is "resolved," says Clarkson staffer



Background on the off-chance you haven't heard about any of this yet, from Kalen Wright on NOLA Femmes:

The following is a letter I sent this evening to elected officials and law enforcement; I’m tired, so it was brief and to the point.

Spray-painted stenciled graffiti advertising a Coca-Cola product in conjunction with the NCAA Men's Final Four event.

Honorable Mayor Landrieu, Councilmembers Palmer and Clarkson, and NOPD 8th District Commander Walls:

The attached photos depict advertising associated with the NCAA Men’s Final Four event for Coca-Cola products — spray-painted on sidewalks and pavement (including flagstones) in the French Quarter and Faubourg Tremé (and perhaps other) neighborhoods in our city. I ask, is this really how we want companies to behave when our city hosts national events?

This all started last night, when Wright took to Twitter to raise awareness that (1) Coca-Cola ads were popping up on French Quarter sidewalks and (2) that is against the law. Note: It is not a violation of the new state law that makes graffiti in the French Quarter a felony. That law only applies if a building or structure's been defaced.


(More after the jump)

Today, Wright says, she was informed by Elaine White, chief of staff for City Council President Jackie Clarkson, that the matter has been "resolved."

"That’s what I was told. They would immediately clean it up," White says. Asked who "they" are, White says she's not sure, but "Coca-Cola" appeared on her caller ID. However, The Times-Picayune has confirmed with a Coke representative that the company has instructed the offending marketing firm to remove the ads, and that effort is "moving expeditiously."

White claims that the ads are chalk, not paint.

“It is not chalk. It is some sort of product that has properties that are similar to chalk, but it’s not," Wright says. “It requires a lot of elbow grease to get it off."

Update: Kel Villarrubia, senior public affairs director for Coca-Cola Refreshments New Orleans, says the campaign resulted from a misunderstanding.

"The agency that was retained by the company misinterpreted," a city-issued permit, he says. "It was a permit to activate certain signage in a prescribed area as one of the sponsors of the Final Four."

Villarrubia can't say exactly what the permit did allow nor how it could have been misinterpreted, as he hasn't actually seen it. The marketing firm responsible for the ads obtained it. Villarrubia wouldn't give the name of that firm.

Asked if he knows how many stencils are left or how many there were to begin with, Villarrubia says he doesn't know. He says the unnamed firm is handling the clean-up, using power-washers and that all work should be complete by later this afternoon.

"It’s being handled on the ground. Every half hour I’m getting an update," he says. "Apparently they kept a record of every one."

Villarrubia says he's been in contact with officials from the Landrieu Administration, City Council and the Vieux Carre Commission. As of this writing, he's not aware whether the city will be issuing citations for violations of city or state laws against graffiti or city code prohibiting advertising on streets and sidewalks.

"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," mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni writes in an emailed statement.


The ads also appear to violate the "Clean Zone" ordinance passed by City Council in September, specifically for the Final Four weekend. That law prohibits the placement of any advertising on public property between March 28 and April 4, unless sanctioned by the NCAA and approved by the city. Violators are subject to a $500 fine.

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