Bitcoin Billboards Go Up in San Francisco

After a spate of setbacks in December -- including a precipitous dip in value, a ban in China, and opprobrium from various economic-minded tech bloggers -- Bitcoin has announced its triumphant return.

A single coin currently goes for about $980 US dollars (a figure that keeps jostling, even as we type), which theoretically is enough to pay a month's rent in the Richmond, or fund several doctor's appointments. Bitcoin Not Bombs donated hundreds of hooded sweatshirts to the city's homeless, and local tech company Zynga is testing a Bitcoin payment system for some of its online games.

To top it all off, Bitcoin billboards have gone up throughout the Bay Area. Ironically, boosters of the high-tech currency have chosen a rather low-tech advertising vessel to spread their message. And they say it's working: The 40 billboards scattered have an "estimated exposure" of more than 10 million impressions thus far.

The posters, which feature a glittery cityscape, a dollar sign "B", and the slogan "The revolution has started ... where do you stand?" are the work of Arise, Bitcoin!, a privately funded organization devoted to new forms of Bitcoin evangelism. Its members partnered with a marketing campaign vendor for this inaugural project, which runs through Jan. 27 -- at which point the billboards will go down.

While the organization's definition of "success" seems to be inchoate -- it considers every new user an initiate -- it's laid out a bullet-point list of goals for the near future, including a Bitcoin user hotline for anyone with questions about acquiring the currency, or making a purchase. The organization's members caution that they aren't trying to juke the value of Bitcoin, though they do expect it to rise with exposure.

Mostly, they'd like to see San Francisco awash in Bitcoin infrastructure. That means more cupcake shops and sushi joints and gaming companies accepting the currency -- not just because it's a fad, but because it's robust and viable. And if Internet popularity doesn't beget a healthy transaction system, then old-fashioned, pen-and-ink marketing might be the best recourse.

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Dan White
Dan White

Yep, they're very visible on both the L and K Muni lines

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