Mensa sells ads on membership cards.

Mensa 2014 membership card, with ad on back

As might be expected, Mensa America — the US branch of the international high IQ society — has taken a great leap forward and landed on the cutting edge of marketing. The Mensa 2014 membership card is “sponsored” by Layne Walker of Northwestern mutual.

Subtle throughout, there’s no call to action, no Web Site address, no motto, . . ., not even a mention of what Northwestern Mutual is. These lacunae might leave a lesser audience confused, but Mensans will have the intellectual fortitude to do an Internet search and then will learn that Layne Walker is an insurance agent in Lubbock, Texas. Those lacking mental firepower might find this curious, but to Mensa members it’s all instantly clear. Lubbock, Texas was the home of Buddy Holly, that American saint who is forever twenty-two and with us always in the night sky. For anyone who strained their lungs singing “My Country Tis of Thee” in kindergarten, a card with an ad from an insurance agent in Lubbock, Texas is like a splintery sliver of a relic of the cross for a Medieval pilgrim.

And just think where this innovation might lead. States can sell ads on drivers’ licenses. When you get pulled over in Arkansas, the motorcycle cop can learn about “HAL’S DUTY FOOTWEAR — LARGEST SELECTION FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN — FREE SHIPPING!” And then there are colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning. Promotional messages can be splattered all over diplomas like some diner placemat menu. And this advertising — for a reasonable one-time charge — will be good for decades. Years after an attorney’s graduation from law school, a client might glance up at a framed document and see “NIFTY BRAKE AND TUNE UP — MENTION THIS AD AND GET A FREE OIL CHANGE WITH ANY TUNE UP!”

Mensa membership card 2014 mailer

Why is the NYC talk radio market at room temperature?

The 77 WABC Facebook Page has 10,249 Likes; WOR 710 has 2,928.

New York area independent music broadcasters do much better. Freeform radio WFMU shows 49,853 Fordham University’s station,WFUV, received 25,569.

KFI AM 640 in Southern California — analyzed by the great the great David Foster Wallace — has 46,259 Facebook Likes.

One possible interpretation of the Facebook figures is that, for talk radio in New York, nobody’s out there. Another is that the platform does not persuade. (If listeners won’t even click on a Like button, then what’s the chance of their opening a wallet?) I see the stations failing in their fundamental mission: the creation of a community with the brand as something central to it. This power of radio should be nothing new. Jean Shepherd noted that his show appeared in Kerouac’s On the Road because the broadcast served as a communal hearth to the New York City Beats.

The Facebook Page should be working to drive the size of the listening audience. That’s not happening with low traffic. Facebook numbers are a yardstick that potential advertisers have within easy reach. And given the proximity to the financial district, one that investors also might use.



I came across this cigarette print ad in a December, 1963 NY Giants program.

There’s the mirror which is part of the central theme of being a role model. Smoking is equated with masculinity. A role model serves as a reflection of manhood. Also interesting is the placement of the image of the standing ash tray in the mirror over the electric outlet. Advertising is all you need to travel through the looking glass.

Don’t judge a book by its cover?

A substantial portion of this video concerns book cover design. I wonder if composition that works for brick and mortar stores sales is equally effective Online? Does the look of a book help to decide if a novel is made into a movie? Louis Cheskin posited transference of sensation, that design is experienced as part of the product and so packaging is overwhelmingly important in marketing. With today’s sophisticated graphics, books are judged by their covers. To what degree is this true for intangible ebooks?

The Art of the Book: Behind the Covers with Dave Eggers, Chip Kidd, Milton Glaser and moderator Michael Bierut at the 92nd Street Y in New York, December 4, 2006.

Zine piece on pervasive advertising

In the old article cited here, the Wall Street Journal appears to be trying to determine marketing’s value by gauging if potential consumers are consciously aware of advertising. That’s like attempting to measure temperature with litmus paper.

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As Advertisers race to cover every available surface, are they DRIVING US INSANE?

Stay Free!
Carrie McLaren | Issue #18

Not that you would want to. To hear the marketers tell it, advertising is a gift, relieving you of the agony of a reflective moment, that fifteen seconds of waiting for your cash at the ATM. The Outdoor Advertising Association of American calls billboards the “art gallery of the roadways and the theater of the streets.” (The same organization once published a study showing that billboards improve safety by preventing driver “mild disorientation” and “excessive fantasy formation.”)

Advertisers insist the response to ambient ads is “tremendous” (Zoom Media), “overwhelmingly positive” (, that ambient ads are “hot and chic . . . cool and hip” (Starcom Worldwide), and that criticisms are minimal: a few grumpy ATM customers here and there. At the same time, they recognize that ad fatigue is real. People are said to see upwards of 3,000 ads a day, and tuning out most of them is necessary to stay functional. The Wall Street Journal reported that following a Coca-Cola-sponsored racing event that was littered with Coke signs, giant inflatable Coke bottles, and a Coke logo covering the middle of the race track, only one-third of the attendees could name Coke as the sponsor.