Zynga Off the Hook for Mafia Wars Vandalism, S.F. City Attorney Says

It looks like Zynga is not going to face legal or financial consequences for alleged sidewalk vandalism carried out as part of a marketing campaign for the San Francisco-based company's new online game, Mafia Wars: Las Vegas.

Instead, according to Matt Dorsey, spokesman for San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, the advertising agency that claims to have carried out the "guerrilla marketing" campaign -- in which fake $25,000 dollar bills advertising the game were glued to sidewalks in San Francisco -- will face legal action from the city.

On Friday, Davis Elen Advertising -- a firm with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Portland -- took responsibility for what the city attorney's office called "illegal and actionable" marketing tactics. Zynga, which hired Davis Elen, is the San Francisco-based social-gaming company behind such hit Facebook games as FarmVille.

In a statement that was circulated by Zynga communications officials, Davis Elen said, "We take full responsibility for the program, regret any inconvenience this advertising has caused to the city and its residents and are working with the City to immediately resolve the issue."

Dorsey said the city attorney's office is taking the ad agency's mea culpa at face value, and will be pursuing its legal claims against Davis Elen, not Zynga. Dorsey said that while Davis Elen has been in touch with the Department of Public Works about paying for cleanup, it will still face legal action from the city, partly as a deterrent to future acts of vandalism.

"It's not okay to vandalize public property, and benefit from illegal advertising, and then hose it off and congratulate yourself for your clever guerrilla marketing," Dorsey said.

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