Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dr. Zizmor and the "compensated spokesperson"

One of the unique pleasures of riding the subway is reading the advertisements that line the upper reaches of most of the cars. There are countless ads promoting New York’s many institutions of higher education, frequent appeals to visit some nearby pleasure spot, and sometimes entire coaches devoted to hawking a single product such as sugarless gum or the virtues of shopping at Target.

My favorites, though, without question, are the lawyer and doctor ads. One physician in particular, a dermatologist named Jonathan Zizmor, is a fixture on the subway walls. Aging, but naturally possessing excellent skin, Dr. Zizmor’s benign, almost beatific smile graces most of these promotions, accompanied by the reminder that if you should be so wise as to select Dr. Zizmor as your “complexion analyst,” you will depart his office smiling broadly, free of blackheads, and proclaiming in a loud, colorful, and almost musical voice – “THANK YOU, DR. ZIZMOR, FOR MAKING MY SKIN BEAUTIFUL AND CLEAR.”

Best of all is the law firm that pledges to represent you against any eventuality: reckless drivers, immigration officials, bankruptcy, flood, surgery gone wrong, a vengeful spouse. Plastered across all of these billboards is a rather ordinary but vaguely familiar looking man who has a concerned, mildly wary look on his face. Beside his picture is the name John Roland, and underneath his name are the words, “compensated spokesperson.” Compensated spokesperson? For what? Looking wary? And since when does he speak? Of course, it turns out that John Roland is a former news anchor who has done numerous TV ads in which he does actually talk. But for those unaware of his television fame it is wryly amusing to see him listed as a compensated spokesperson for a print ad that gratefully cannot speak.

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