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San Francisco Tries to Cut Down on Public Urination by Peeing on Offenders

Ad agency's 'Pee Back' stunt streams in from Germany

Before: Public urination defiles building. After: It splashes back on the offender.

Not unlike many other cities around the world, San Francisco has a public-urination problem. People keep peeing in public and on private property, which is not only gross but also does damage to city buildings, sidewalks and more.

But San Francisco Public Works has come up with a solution to discourage public relief because the threat of a $500 fine just wasn't cutting it. The answer for the city is walls coated in hydrophobic paint. When someone goes to pee on one of the nine coated walls, the paint splashes any pee back onto the offender's shoes and pants.

The idea isn't a new one. Public Works director Mohammed Nuru was inspired by a similar project that kicked off in St. Pauli, a small district in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this year. It was developed by the German agency Publicis Pixelpark Hamburg. (The "Pee Back" project might also be making its way to Australia.)

"My director saw it on social media and tweeted out in February that he wanted to start a similar pilot program in San Francisco," said Rachel Gordon, communications director at San Francisco Public Works. "He asked his followers for some suggestions of where would be good locations, and asked the crews where they have to clean up the most urine."

Publicis Pixelpark's Hamburg's effort was a big success:

"For us it is very exciting, seeing a small idea leaving the St. Pauli neighborhood and spreading across the world," Felipe Franco, creative director at Publicis Pixelpark, told Adweek. 

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