The city has ordered Microsoft to remove a slew of butterfly decals that were plastered on phone booths, subway posts and traffic poles throughout Midtown Manhattan. The decals are part of Microsoft's promotion of its MSN 8Thursday.
"Several different types of promotional poster, stickers and/or markings referring to products sponsored/produced by your company are defacing City-owned sidewalks and directional and informational traffic signs throughout New York City," Cesar Fernandez, assistant counsel to the city's Department of Transportation, wrote in a letter to Microsoft.
"Inasmuch as your organization is noted on the illegal markings, we intend to hold your firm directly responsible for this illegal, irresponsible and dangerous defacing of public property," the letter said.
Microsoft executives could not immediately be reached for comment.
The fine for the related offense is $50, plus a $5 handling fee, said DOT spokesman Tom Cocola. He said the DOT received about a dozen phone calls Thursday complaining about the decals, and teams dispatched removed a few hundred of them.
The decals are a form of what's known as guerilla marketing, a popular advertising method among tech companies of getting messages out to the public in unusual ways.
Microsoft isn't the first company to run into marketing trouble. Last year, IBM was chastised by officials in Chicago and San Francisco forsidewalks as part of a Linux promotion.
"In the past we've run into similar situations with other corporations," Cocola said. "Sometimes corporations don't realize when they hire advertisers that there's a section of administrative code that doesn't permit it. Some other cities allow it."