February 12, 2013

Teachers might hate him, but advertisers think he’s got a good face


Below is an ad that displayed on the Huffington Post earlier this week. Ignore the top and focus on the bottom portion, that reads “Teachers HATE Him!!”

Have a close look at our hero there on the left, the bespectacled, side-whiskered, contemplative man whose cocked head and hardset jaw lets us know almost immediately that his cognitive superiority is not to be fucked with.

Recognize him?

Look hard. Harder. Here’s a hint: over the course of his life he won multiple Nebula, Hocus, and Locus Awards. Also: he wrote guides to the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments …

That’s right, it’s Isaac Asimov!

Author Scott Edelmen made the discovery while making his morning news rounds. He writes:

I find it hard to believe that the use of his well-known face in this ad is authorized.

Isaac Asimov … endorsing Pimsleur? This can’t be a real thing. Can it? I don’t recall him ever writing anything on that subject, or hearing him pontificate on it, and a Google search only turns up a single reference that connects the two—and that’s for people who are equally as pissed off at seeing a great man misused by it as I am!

This traduces his memory and lessens his (though I kinda hate to use this word about the Good Doctor) brand.

So Pimsleur Approach people, just stop, OK? And if it’s not something the Pimsleur people did, but is instead the responsibility of the Huffington Post’s ad department, thenthey should knock it off. A photo of Isaac Asimov is not a stock image that can be used to imply endorsement.

I’ve written both companies to ask WTF is going on, and will let you know what I find out.

The company in question, the Pimsleur Approach, is a Philadelphia-based language training center that sells CDs designed to help people “speak a new language in 10 days!”

Granted, that a company would use a dead science fiction writer’s face to endorse a computerized language learning program is a notion Asimov would probably find fit for a story. But I doubt that’s what happened.

As one commenter on Edelmen’s post already pointed out,

“I suspect that’s a syndicated ad which is not controlled by either Huffington or the advertiser. We are getting plagued by all these “Mom of 57 shows new wrinkle-removing tricks, doctors hate her” syndicated ads which pop up in ostensibly reputable sites. The fact that it’s a Asimov pic is probably irrelevant – they just wanted a face pic that was easily available.”

At any rate, it seems that in the digital age being dead does not preclude product endorsement.



Kevin Murphy is the digital media marketing manager of Melville House.