Justin Bieber's illegal graffiti in San Francisco to advertise Purpose album under investigation

Angry local citizens have lodged formal complaints against the marketing stunt

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The Independent Online

He is one of the most “confident” singers in pop, but it may well be too late for Justin Bieber to say “sorry” after his marketing team plastered illegal graffiti over the pavements of San Francisco as part of a promotional campaign.

The graffiti designs, which read: “Justin Bieber, Purpose #Nov13”, were painted on city pavements all over the world to advertise the upcoming release of the singer’s latest album, “Purpose”. Weeks later, however, the graffiti continues to mark streets in neighbourhoods such as Haight-Asbury, causing citizens to lodge formal complaints.

In an open letter addressed to Universal Music Group on 28 December, City Attorney Dennis Herrera demanded the record label’s full cooperation in determining who was responsible for the illegal markings.

“This prohibited marketing practice illegally exploits our city’s walkable neighbourhoods and robust tourism, intentionally creates visual distractions that pose risks to pedestrians on busy rights of way, and irresponsibly tells our youth that likeminded lawlessness and contempt for public property are condoned and encouraged by its beneficiaries,” said Mr Herrera in his letter.

The Attorney noted that unlike other, similar campaigns that have used chalk, the Purpose campaign broke the law by using spray paint that has not washed away despite several recent rainstorms.

Mr Herrera warned Universal Music Group that the city of San Francisco could pursue penalties of up to $2,500 (£1687) for each violation, as well as inevitably restitution fees and costs. He added that public works crews in the city have removed some of the graffiti at great expense, although he declined to provide an exact figure.

“As City Attorney, I take the illegal graffiti marketed for Bieber’s album seriously,” said Mr Herrera, “and I will aggressively pursue all available penalties and costs from those responsible.”

Universal Music Group is yet to respond with a comment.

In the past, several companies, including NBC Universal and Lyft, have paid out tens of the thousands of dollars to the city for the removal costs of similar marketing campaigns on city property.

In 2013, Bieber was charged with defacing a building after drawing on a hotel wall with the graffiti “Beliebers4Life” in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

The pop star was said to have permission to 'tag' a different location, but had decided to deface a different wall to avoid overzealous fans.