"On Tuesday, the San Francisco dot-com mailed hundreds of letters apologizing for publicity posters that not only trumpeted its 100,000 subscribers but also featured the Dalai Lama, shown meditating under the slogan "There is no software on the path to enlightenment." The poster had invited 500 guests to the Dalai Lama's speech, sponsored by the American Himalayan Foundation, on Sept. 5 at Davies Symphony Hall. Now, Salesforce.com, which sells a Web-based service for tracking sales and marketing, will not attend the event."
"We had no right to suggest that either the American Himalayan Foundation or His Holiness support us. We made a mistake. For any harm to the reputations of His Holiness and the American Himalayan Foundation, we apologize," the letter says.
The company purchased tickets for employees, media outlets and "friends of Salesforce," said spokeswoman Caryn Marooney. The evening was to culminate in a party at the Asian Art Museum, now postponed until November.
Salesforce.com requests that invitees return the posters, and will pay for any expenses incurred to return them and correct the record. The company printed about 650 posters.
Marc Benioff, the company's chairman, signed the letter, which was sent to all invited guests.
On top of the $75,000 Salesforce.com contribution to the Himalayan Foundation, the company will donate its $25,000 ticket fee, for a total $100, 000 donation.
"We were not happy with the poster. So, as something to make us and everybody happy, they bowed out of the event," said Erica Stone, the Himalayan Foundation's president.
Both the foundation and representatives of the Dalai Lama have accepted the company's apology, she said.
Backing away from the event -- now sold out -- was the appropriate response,
said Kelly Nice, partner of Nice Advertising in San Francisco: "It's a difficult thing to know what will blow up on you, so you end up playing defense when it does."
Salesforce.com is assessing its process for designing posters. "We have to look at how we communicate with the outside," Marooney said.
"We had no right to suggest that either the American Himalayan Foundation or His Holiness support us. We made a mistake. For any harm to the reputations of His Holiness and the American Himalayan Foundation, we apologize," the letter says."