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This app wipes out ugly street art

A clever advertising campaign in Romania uses geolocation to get buildings sparkling clean.

This photo is the last you'll see of this harsh graffiti. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

Street art can bring color and context into a neighborhood, turning the ugly, unloved sides of buildings into a dazzling murals. Or, it can just be ugly graffiti -- the kind that gives voice to hateful sentiments and degrades the facades of historic structures.

The McCann advertising group in Romania decided to tackle the latter kind through a clever advertising campaign on behalf of their client Cif, a maker of cleaning products. They created an app that allowed Romanians in and around Bucharest to snap photos of offensive graffiti. Then, using geolocation services, the locations of the ugly marks were transmitted to a Cif team who soon arrived in a branded van to wipe it away.

In the advertising world it's kind of a grand slam: It combines tech, real-world action, a socially responsible program, and ties in beautifully with the client's product. The subtext is obviously: "If Cif can clean up this kind of ugly harsh stuff on city streets, just imagine what it could do in your kitchen." Of course, it does all of that without having to state the obvious, which makes it even more effective.

You can see before-and-after shots of the areas that got cleaned up by visiting Cif's website. It's in Romanian, but just click on the camera icons on the map and you'll get the picture.